Hélène Grimaud

Chopin, Rachmaninov

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Hélène Grimaud is almost impossibly beautiful, impossibly talented, impossibly demanding, and impossibly willful. She's wonderful but she's exhausting, and long before it's over the listener finds out that she's not worth the energy. On this disc coupling Chopin's Sonata in B flat minor with Rachmaninov's Sonata in B flat minor plus Chopin's Berceuse and Barcarolle, Grimaud demonstrates once again why she's la belle noiseuse of pianists. Her Chopin Sonata is incredibly brilliant and unbelievably sensual, but an emotional mess. Grimaud speeds up into climaxes, unable to resist getting there first, and slows down at codas, unwilling to let go after it's over. Grimaud pulls back and pushes ahead for no special reason except to show that she can if she wants to. Her Rachmaninov Sonata is staggeringly well-played and stunningly over-acted. Grimaud can handle anything the score throws at her but with her imperious technique and aggressive interpretation, she winds up doing what even Horowitz could not do: she bullies the music into frightened submission. Her Chopin Berceuse and Barcarolle start sweet and tender and kind and loving, but end up too hard, too harsh, too tough, and too fast. Grimaud will drive most listeners crazy. Whether they enjoy it is up to them. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is very clear but edgy when loud.

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