Claire Huangci

A Chopin Diary

(CD - Berlin Classics #0300905 BC)

Review by

The American pianist Claire Huangci has gained followings in her native country, in Germany, where she was partly trained, and, to judge from the chart performance of this Chopin release there, in the United Kingdom. The Russian pianist Vladimir Krainev has said that she has the fastest fingers in the world, which is nothing to sneeze at. The album proclaims that it's the first recording of Chopin's complete nocturnes since Arthur Rubinstein's, which it may well be, but that's not necessarily a good thing: the nocturnes were not a cycle of works, and a lot of them are strongly similar to one another. This doesn't work to Huangci's advantage: her sunny, rather delicate tone is pretty consistent throughout, and 22 nocturnes is a lot. Huangci seems to recognize this when she overlays the album with a "diary" concept, actually a group of quotations from French poetry, each matched to one of the nocturnes. (The booklet isn't particularly illuminating on how the choices were made or what their meaning for Huangci might be.) The strengths of the album are exactly as Krainev says: Huangci's ornaments glitter and glide, and her playing certainly gives an idea of why there has been a fuss over this young player at a time when the American piano scene could use the boost.

blue highlight denotes track pick