Alex Szilasi

Chopin: Polonaises; Mazurkas

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The polonaise was derived from a slow Polish folk dance in triple meter, which eventually became a stately court dance that was adopted in the 18th century by composers across Europe. By the 19th century, the form was raised to an even higher level of artistry and nationalistic pride by Frédéric Chopin, who personalized it and gave it a great variety of styles and characteristics from such boisterous showpieces as the Polonaise in A major, "Military," and the Polonaise in A flat major, "Héroique," to more somber expressions, as in the Polonaise in E flat minor and the Polonaise in F sharp minor. Because of the versatility of the polonaise as a character piece for piano, Chopin turned to it many times, and the associations he made through it to his homeland are key examples of his patriotic music. This double-disc volume in Hungaroton's 2010 set commemorating the composer's bicentennial presents all of the polonaises and mazurkas without opus numbers, in performances by Alex Szilasi on a Pleyel piano, authentic to Chopin's period. The pieces are expertly played, with emotional sensitivity and technical brilliance, and the instrument sounds quite rich and full in these recordings, though experienced listeners may note the bright, metallic quality of the upper notes. Hungaroton's reproduction is first-rate, so the piano has close-up presence and natural resonance against a noiseless background.

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