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Chopin - Pletnev
Fryderyk Chopin, Mikhail Pletnev
Chopin - Pletnev
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Special Interest, Classical
This all-Chopin disc marked Mikhail Pletnev's debut as a pianist on Deutsche Grammophon. Although Pletnev's interpretive approach was castigated in some corners, his playing is admirable and extraordinarily manly, with a d...  more »


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All Artists: Fryderyk Chopin, Mikhail Pletnev
Title: Chopin - Pletnev
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Release Date: 7/15/1997
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Special Interest, Classical
Styles: Ballets & Dances, Ecossaises, Forms & Genres, Fantasies, Sonatas, Historical Periods, Romantic (c.1820-1910)
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 028945345628, 002894534562

This all-Chopin disc marked Mikhail Pletnev's debut as a pianist on Deutsche Grammophon. Although Pletnev's interpretive approach was castigated in some corners, his playing is admirable and extraordinarily manly, with a decidedly Slavic cast and yet with all kinds of elegance. One is struck repeatedly by Pletnev's crystalline arpeggiations, the velocity of his passage work, his singing tone, his rhythmic suppleness, and, above all, the grandeur of his sound. And does DG ever do a number on that! If you've ever turned pages or played on a real stage, this is the sound you hear: big, resonant, incredibly solid, rich in overtones, and slow to decay. The weight and immediacy of the lower octave are better captured here than on most other recordings, as is the action of the dampers. --Ted Libbey

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CD Reviews

I'm unmoved
Robert L. Berkowitz | Natick, MA United States | 04/29/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Oh, to have the technique this man posseses. What an extraordinary capacity to create an almost infinite palette of sound! But at virtually every musical moment, I would choose to do something different than what Maestro Pletnev does.

The professional reviewer on this site noted that Maestro Pletnev's Chopin has a Slavic cast -- I would say more specifically a Russian cast. But "Russian" doesn't fully characterize it, because Ashkenazy, Richter, Horowitz, Gilels and Davidovich, to name a few great Russian pianists, do not imbue their Chopin with this same quality. To be more specific, I would say that Pletnev plays his Chopin with an anti-Slavic Russian -- a nationalistic Russian -- style. There is a Slavic style associated with the Chopin of Rubinstein (and many others) that I anticipate when listening to Chopin. It's what one has come to expect when Chopin is played selflessly and idiomatically. And one doesn't have to be a Slav to play it that way. Claudio Arrau and Yundi Li both play Chopin in that same idiomatic spirit. I feel that Pletnev deliberately _avoids_ going down these well-worn paths. It makes me angry because there is much more Pletnev in these performances than Chopin. He actually disconnects me from this music -- he teases me by pulling me up short at almost every important musical point -- almost as if to say that it would be too uninteresting to play this music as it is written. I find it hard to believe that he really _feels_ this music in this way. Rather, I get the sense that he _avoids_ feeling the music this way. He uses his technique not as a way to get deeper into the emotion but rather as a way to avoid the emotion in this music and say something else. And that "something else" feels breezy and emotionally vacuous by comparison. He doesn't love this music except as a vehicle to demonstrate his phenomenal technique, which is perhaps unparalleled.

Pletnev is most successful in this recording when he is playing Chopin-lite, like the A-flat major Waltz, "Black Key" Etude or the G-sharp minor Etude. The first impromptu is also relatively successful. One comes away with exhiliration over how much control he has over the sound he wants to create. Where the recording is least successful is with the more probing Chopin -- the F minor Fantasie and the B minor Sonata. Pletnev has a tendency toward agogic slow-downs and fleet-fingered accelerations for some of his application of rubato. The middle section of the Fantasie slows to such a pace that one loses the melodic flow -- I thought of Russian bells during this section, but I don't think that's Chopin's intent. Or consider the part of the B minor Sonata that ends the exposition of the first movement. Why rush through it like that? I can't find fault with the seeringly beautiful 3rd movement, but I remain unmoved, and the last movement is played with the fleeting brilliance he brings to the A-flat Major Waltz so it is robbed of the sense of agitation, majesty and nobility that it can achieve.

The recorded sound is superb. This disc helps one appreciate the possibilities of piano technique, but I don't listen to it to find Chopin, just Pletnev, who is less interesting to me."
Alas, Partly Too Exaggerated for Repeated Listening
C. Pontus T. | SE/Asia | 05/09/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Mr Pletnev is undoubtedly on the short-list of the greatest living pianists. His interpretations are always exceedingly individual--his unique voice of hyper-nimble, sensitive and singing fingers constantly permeating his performances. However, the downside of his highly idiosyncratic playing as that it at times gets too self-indulgent and attention-seeking. In the case of Chopin, some people may well argue that he is the one to be blamed, not Pletnev, as his music opens itself to such an endless variability of interpretative options--which is also why his music is so difficult to interpret the `correct' or `perfect' way. Nonetheless, on rare occasions, one encounters this--in Perahia's Piano Concertos, Argerich's Scherzos Nos 2 & 3, or in the case of Pletnev his live Carnegie Hall Scherzo No 4 (see further my review).

As to this very Chopin recital, the three Etudes indeed belong to this elusive select group of `perfect' performances--have the G-flat-major `Black Keys' ever run with such feather-light fingers, have the fearsome G-sharp-minor thirds ever sounded so seamlessly even, or has the slow C-sharp-minor `bel canto' theme ever been `sung' with such delicacy? Also the three Ecossaises are given truly masterful five-star interpretations. Lastly, the sadness of the A-minor Waltz is captured with a rare sense of beauty.

Unfortunately, that is where the good things end about this recital. The two major works--the F-minor Fantaisie and the B-minor Sonata--are really disappointing in Pletnev's hands. Indeed, he tries his utmost to make them sound special and original, but in the process the natural flow of beauty inherent in Chopin's masterful writing is partly lost. It is not the at times excessively slow tempos themselves that cause the damage, but rather the tendency to speed up and slow down things, as it seems, almost randomly that makes one lose the track of the music. Just listen to Mr Demidenko (Hyperion Helios), who--although clocking in almost identically with Pletnev on each movement--makes you shiver with joy through his natural way of delivering the pure exquisiteness of the music. The remaining two Waltzes and the A-flat-major Impromptu are given similar treatment, although the exaggerations stay within reasonable proportions thanks to the limited lengths or the works.

To sum up--this recital could have been an out-and-out five-star recommendation had the priceless pianism apparent in the Etudes and Ecossaises been given also to the other works. Hence, the overall grade can only be three stars--the recorded sound, though being rather close, cannot be faulted. All the same, at repeated listening, one increasingly starts hoping Pletnev will be given opportunity to commit all the Chopin Etudes (or perhaps even more the Godowsky elaborations!) to disc--that could indeed be quite an event..."
The epitome of the modern concert pianist
Mr. Ian George Fraser | Brazil | 01/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Mikhail Pletnev is probably the epitome of the modern concert pianist, blessed with an awesome, apparently flawless technique, he makes music which is almost unplayable for the average mortal seem like a walk in the park, though this may be a double-edged sword of course if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor! His tone is light,wonderfully clear, incredibly agile, brilliant and extrovert and his tempi almost invariably fast, sometimes astonishingly so, though he will occasionally throw in a very slow one by way of heightening the contrast. Everything is done for effect and in this respect he is probably the ideal pianist for Chopin. Certainly I have never heard better technical performances or finer sound quality than these.

I did, however, on occasion, find myself asking, yes, but what does he think this piece actually means? Admittedly this is a question that has been asked about Chopin before, with somewhat variable answers. How would he fare, I wonder, with Brahms or Mozart? Mightn't he get bored? I note with interest that he has recorded mainly Russian music.

This is a great performer without question, whether he is also a great musician I will reserve judgement on, although I see he has been engaged recently on a conducting project, the complete Beethoven symphonies. Should be interesting at the very least.