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Chopin: Préludes, Impromptus, Barcarolle, Berceuse
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Chopin: Préludes, Impromptus, Barcarolle, Berceuse

7 Aug 2006 | Format: MP3

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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 7 Aug 2006
  • Release Date: 7 Aug 2006
  • Label: Warner Classics
  • Copyright: (C) 2006 EMI Records Ltd.
  • Record Company Required Metadata: Music file metadata contains unique purchase identifier. Learn more.
  • Total Length: 1:07:53
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B001IP75OA
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 202,683 in MP3 Albums (See Top 100 in MP3 Albums)

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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Clarifying the previous review 19 July 2007
By Richard Frankel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Mr. Wilde is spot-on in his comparison of Cortot's 1926 and 1933 recordings of the Preludes (although the most recent reissue of the 1926 recording, on Naxos Historical Series, has noticeably improved the "fuzzy" sound). What Mr. Wilde doesn't really make clear is that this EMI "Great Recordings" contains Cortot's 1933 recording.

Of course, that information should really be provided by Amazon. All too frequently, I don't dare purchase a CD of a historic performance on Amazon, because the "Product Information" omits two essential pieces of information: when the recording was made, and when the CD was remastered.

We need the former information because many artists recorded the same work over and over again, with wildly varying results and in wildly varying sound quality.

We need the latter information because the technology for transferring an analogue recording to CD has improved tremendously since CDs were first issued. My own advice would be to look for a "transfer date" or "re-mastering date" of 1977 or later, that being about the time when the various labels began to use "bit-mapping", "noise-shaping", etc. (Such technology is a major component of what EMI calls "ART Technology", which they use on every historic reissue in this "Great Recordings Of The Century" series.)

In fact, this particular CD is a perfect example: I was looking for Cortot's 1933 recording of the Preludes. Naxos's website told me that their CD had the earlier, 1926 recording. I then turned to Amazon's listings, and saw that the most likely choices were the EMI box-set of (nearly)all of Cortot's Chopin, and this single disc. Amazon gave no information on recording dates for either set, but a helpful customer-submitted review of the box-set states that contains neither the 1926 nor the 1933 recordings, but a still-later one from the '40s! (And, as a general rule, Cortot's technique became more and more fallible as the years progressed.)

As for this single CD...well, of course EMI's "Great Recordings Of The Century" series uses consistently excellent transfers (in other words, the sound is likely to be every bit as good as the original recording allows); but which performance is it? Mr. Wilde's review isn't quite clear on that matter, so I turned to EMI's website, where I eventually learned that this CD has Cortot's 1933 recording of the Preludes.

Amazon could make most of this detective work unnecessary, simply by providing a BACK-cover photo of each CD along with the front-cover photo; it's often on the back cover that recording dates and re-mastering dates are listed. And Amazon could help further by ensuring that when we hit "Enlarge Photo" (to read some detail about the contents), then it's the PHOTO that gets enlarged, rather than just the box in which it appears! But Amazon really does need to start providing the Recording Date (rec.1933, for example)after each title on historic reissues, as well as a "Transfer Date" or "Remastering Date" (Rem.2003).
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
The Legendary Cortot. 9 Jan 2007
By David Wilde - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This disc contains some of the best of Cortot's Chopin. The 1933 recording of the Preludes sets a standard for all subsequent recordings, although it has to be said that the 1926 recording [the first ever made] is fresher and cleaner, though unfortunately fuzzily recorded. Cortot's intensely personal sound is much in evidence overall, as is his equally personal 'tempo rubato'. As a teacher, Cortot abhorred what he called 'anonymous' playing, and his own style is instantly recognizable. He had the courage to take gigantic risks, both musically and technically, and it is in this spirit that we should accept a few slips. Today's digital recording techniques create a different psychology in the studio, as I know myself, and the super-accuracy demanded by the technology makes such an approach difficult. On the other hand, editing was not possible in Cortot's day: one recorded 12 inch [4 to 5 minute] discs without a break and with no possibility of correction, and after World War II shortages of discs made more than two takes per disc impracticable.

In the Preludes, note the illusion of two simultaneous tempi in Number 3 in G Major, with a 'rippling spring' in the left hand underlying a serenely langorous melody in the right: the overwhelming passion of the tragic e minor Prelude, the contrasting moods and lyrical intensity of the famous 'Raindrop' Prelude in D Flat, the terrifying drama and pace of the b flat minor - 'The Road to the Abyss' as Cortot himself called it - and the desperate pleading of the f sharp minor.

Somehow Cortot liberates the music even from the shackles of the instrument itself, which becomes a choir or an orchestra, with great tenor and soprano soloists. A large part of his secret is in his wonderfully subtle pedalling. I heard him in the concert hall several times, and he had a way of stretching out his right leg and vibrating his foot on the pedal. He also made extensive use of the 'Una corda' or left pedal, even in loud passages.

Nos 1 and 3 of the Impromptus remain my favourite recordings of all time. In particular, no other pianist could sing the middle sections of both pieces with such glorious freedom, such intensity of sound. Cortot's typical choice of unusually fast tempi serves him well here.

Impromptu No 2 is fine, too, though the middle section is marred somewhat by Cortot's curious laziness about chordal and octave leaps.

I have the impression that he simply disliked the Fantasie-Impromptu, which is well below his best, and that he included it merely to complete the set.

The Barcarolle I find disappointing, so a-typical that I cannot account for it. Cortot was notoriously unreliable and his playing depended, perhaps too much, on his mood. Personally I feel this is the price we have to pay for his best playing, and I'm willing to pay it.

Not for the first time, of the many recordings of Cortot playing Chopin's Berceuse, the one reproduced here is an unsatisfactory version. Made in 1949, it contains a badly voiced 'D Flat'on the instrument he used, so that this note sticks out like a sore thumb, right in the middle of the melody, all the way through the piece. Unaccountably, Phillips also used this version in the vynyl set of Cortot's complete Chopin recordings, despite the fact that there is a beautiful 1933 recording with no such defect, which is also more strongly and authoritatively played. [It is, of course, well known that Cortot had serious health problems after World War II and one must be selective in choosing recordings made after that time.]

Overall the 'pluses' far outweigh the 'minuses' in this recording and I strongly recommend it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Cortot plays Chopin 16 Mar 2011
By Swissmiss - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This recording is excellent. I was a little concerned when I ordered it since the recordings date back to the late 30ies early 40ies, but the clarity and sound quality are excellent. I was thrilled to be able to find this . I heard Alfred Cortot play in person during his farewell concert tour in Switzerland when I was a young girl and this recording really captures all the nuances of his playing.
A message from the past 30 Sep 2012
By Ann O'Nym - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The recordings date back to the early 19th century, with hissing and cracks unavoidable from these old tracks... but his spirit and sensitivity are so alive in the music, every time I hear the prelude #4, I feel my heart is going to stop for a moment. Listen to his message from the past, it has no equal.
3 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Cortot indulged 24 Mar 2012
By Ollie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Cortot was one of my childhood legends, but listening again, there are just too many exponents of the real Chopin today to dare to cross the line from the spiritual into the indulgency of almost an adolescent interpretation of life. Chopin is too universal in appeal for this King's dish. But Cortot had to be. It is interesting to observe what lengths we will go to in order to feed off the greatest lyricist of all time... Chopin, I mean. But he is a lyricist of the heart, a regretist, not a lyricist of the trite lyrical. Sensitivity has been overwhelmed. Part of the journey, though, and a forceful part.
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