Switching roles from conductor to pianist with apparent ease, Jean-Pascal Hamelin presents his second album of solo pieces by Frédéric Chopin with a selection focused on the intimate side of the composer. (While this was one of many Chopin tributes recorded in 2010 for the bicentennial of his birth, the 2011 release date has let it stand out from the pack.) The largely introspective Polonaise No. 1 in C sharp minor establishes the subdued mood, and the "tableaux intimes" that follow are essentially interpreted with a private feeling. This is most effective in the handful of nocturnes, waltzes, and mazurkas, where a sense of quiet reverie is readily suggested by the music, but it is a little less convincing in the etudes, which don't lend themselves to such a poetic reading. Surely the Grand Waltz in A flat major, the "Revolutionary" Etude, and the "Heroic" Polonaise are among Chopin's most extroverted pieces, and one can safely assume they were provided for some much needed contrast with the prevailing atmosphere of reflection. Hamelin plays with passion and elegance, and his sense of phrasing relies on a highly controlled rubato that never distorts the sense of the music, but gives the gentler passages a charming lilt. The sound of the album is clear and fairly close to the keyboard, though the acoustics seem a bit dry.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
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