Jan Lisiecki

Frédéric Chopin: Complete Nocturnes

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Frédéric Chopin: Complete Nocturnes Review

by James Manheim

Pianist Jan Lisiecki, 26 years old when this recording was released in 2021, was dubbed the Doogie Howser of the piano by the New York Times, and the moniker is apt not only for his youthful appearance but for his wealth of experience. In the music of Chopin, with which he began to make a splash in Poland as early as age 14, he's positively a veteran, and it shows in this traversal of the composer's Nocturnes. Lisiecki does not propose any interpretive breakthroughs for these pieces; his tempos are moderate, perhaps on the slow side, and he is expressively self-effacing rather than dramatic, with the focus squarely on the melody. It may take multiple hearings to appreciate his accomplishment here, but those who devote the time will find exceptionally smooth Chopin readings in which every detail has been considered and practiced well. This is not to say that Lisiecki's Chopin is mechanical. The quasi-improvisatory element is there and is elegantly realized, but the pianist tends to defer it until later in the piece, after the quiet nocturnal atmosphere has been established. The Berlin Meistersaal is an ideal sound environment for Chopin in general, and here, it contributes a truly magical touch. The next generation of Chopin interpretation is in good hands.

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