Stéphane de May

Chopin: Complete Nocturnes

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Stéphane de May's 2010 double-disc set of the complete nocturnes of Frédéric Chopin coincided with the bicentennial of the composer's birth, but the project was actually an outgrowth of many years of studying and practicing these pieces, dating back to the pianist's childhood. As must be evident from the very outset, de May is quite personally involved in the music: this is due not only to his long familiarity with these pieces and is apparent in his rather fluid and somewhat free interpretations, but it is also inherent in his decision to record these performances in a small venue at night for an intimate group of friends. To the extent that listeners might favor a Romantic reading of the nocturnes, flexible in tempos and subjective in moods, de May's album is almost as far as one can go before slipping into an overly sentimental approach. Yet he never crosses the boundaries of good taste, and as emotional as the nocturnes must be for a musician who has been involved with them for a long time, they never become maudlin, and there is considerable control of dynamics and phrasing within de May's fairly broad freedom of expression. The sound of the recordings is quite soft and apparently miked some feet from the piano, which lends a slightly veiled quality to the music.

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