Louis Demetrius Alvanis

Chopin: The Three Piano Sonatas

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The three piano sonatas of Frédéric Chopin are deceptively difficult works that are a little outside the mainstream for performers and analysts alike. Of these compositions, only the Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor -- best-known for its famous "Marche funèbre" -- and the Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor are regularly played, for the Piano Sonata No. 1 in C minor is considered derivative, repetitive, and dull in comparison with its successors. Yet all three are rather loose in form, simplistically structured, and not especially innovative in the way Beethoven's or Liszt's piano sonatas were significant developments of the form. Furthermore, they are all extremely challenging to play, even for the greatest virtuosos, but they lack the gratifying flashiness that one finds in Liszt and seem less dazzling for their earnestness. One pianist who has mastered these sonatas without distress over their formal weaknesses, technical demands, or middling effect is Louis Demetrius Alvanis, a British pianist who has recorded Romantic repertoire for Meridian, notably keyboard works by Johannes Brahms. Alvanis has a polished technique that seems effortless, and his handling of Chopin's toughest passages is admirable. There is little he can do to make the pieces seem more impressive in design or impact, but his consistent and controlled interpretations present the music on its own terms, and he leaves it to the listener to be duly impressed with his fine playing. Meridian's sound is clear and adequately resonant, so the performances have credible reproduction, if not the fullest presence.

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