The Only Chopin Album You Will Ever Need

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Is this, as promised, the only Chopin disc you'll ever need? Not by a long shot, but, unlike many releases of its type, it represents a decent start on a Chopin collection. The two discs enclosed offer a generous selection of Chopin pieces in various genres, balancing miniatures with larger pieces and hitting most of the expected classics (the Funeral March from the Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, closes the program). The performers were part of Vanguard's catalog during its glory days in the 1960s, and they generally do Chopin justice. A particular pleasure is the inclusion of underrated Brazilian pianist Guiomar Novaes on several etudes and ballades, and the young Alfred Brendel, not noted as a Chopin specialist, nevertheless makes a confident appearance in the Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise, Op. 22, unnaturally split into two tracks. Rosina Lhevinne, not an easy find in music stores these days, is heard in a movement from the Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor. The chief objection has to do with the sound; nowhere is the buyer told that these recordings date from the 1960s, and the home listener with decent equipment can certainly do better. But the remastering smoothes out some of the sonic transitions, and for car or gym this is a good beginning if not an end to an encounter with Chopin.

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