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Cortot Edition Vol. 4: Chopin [CD]

Alfred Cortot Audio CD

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Sonates pour piano n°2 & n°3 - Polonaises (Enregistrements 1923-1947) / Alfred Cortot, piano

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing from what I can hear through the tape hiss, distortion, and hardened tone 21 Jun 2014
By Joseph Kline PhD, MD - Published on
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This Naxos Great Pianists album featuring Alfred Cortot performing the following Chopin works were recorded during the period between 1923 and 1947:

* Grande Polonaise, Op. 22 (1923)
Cortot plays this Polonaise faster than most do today, and it felt rushed.

* Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35 (1928)
Stunning performance of great feeling. A ton of tape hiss and distortion.

* Polonaise No. 6 in A-flat major, Op. 53 (1933)
Stunning performance with no schmaltz but much feeling. Cortot is in total command. Amazing.

* Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58 (1933)
This sonata lacked the flow of Sonata 2 in the beginning of the 1st movement. There is less tape hiss and distortion than in the earlier sonata. The 2nd movement is fast as lightning. The 3rd movement. The final movement sounds punchy but is likely the recordings hardness of tone. A superb performance with great feeling.

* 3 Chants Polonais, Op. 74 (transcribed by Liszt) (1939)
These are wonderful performances, played delicately and sweetly.

* Polonaise No. 7 in A-flat major, Op. 61 (1947)
Nondescript performance. Little hiss and less distortion. Piano tone is less hardened.

Needless to say, there is a great amount of tape hiss and distortion of the piano that precludes any detailed commentary because of the hiss, distortion, and hard tone. Cortot was the best. I just wish we could hear him like he actually played. Highly Recommended to get a glimpse of what magical piano playing was like. Today we have Rubinstein (Waltzes), Freire (Nocturnes), Perez (Impromptus), Luisada (Mazurkas) and Moravec (Preludes) to carry on the tradition. Amen.
5.0 out of 5 stars Cortot and the Sonatas... 18 Nov 2012
By B.E.F. - Published on
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase

We were anxious to see what Cortot would do with Chopin's two major Sonatas: well--the Second's interesting, while the Third is incredible.

Full disclosure: the needle hiss on the Second Sonata is fairly substantial: one needs must listen thru it.
(This is due to Naxos' project of releasing recordings not released by other labels. In this case they went with the 1928 rather than the 1933 sessions.)

The Second Sonata has been well covered by numerous artists over the years especially due to the famous Marche funèbre.
Cortot's reading has a dark undercurrent of intensity; curiously perhaps, of all recordings we prefer Cécile Ousset's 1987 realization of this work:
i. 08'04 ii. 07'06 iii. 08'43 iv. 01'31 Ousset, 1987

It must be remembered that for these recordings Cortot had to sometimes abridge the works and too had to adjust the durée of his playing to meet the parameters of 78rpm recording techne; obviously the situation is quite different today where an artist can sit down and play continuously for an 80'00 CD.
(Cf. Alan Marks' 70'00 realization of Satie's Vexations.)

Cortot's Third Sonata is really remarkable, featuring his great energy and firm control: we can only compare it with Glenn Gould's rare `live' CBC radio broadcast of 23 July 1970:
i. 10'01 ii. 02'18 iii. 08'34 iv. 04'58 Gould, 1970
i. 08'39 ii. 02'32 iii. 07'06 iv. 05'05 Cortot, 1933

The sound on Cortot's 1933 performance is very good.

In recent years the Third Sonata has gained recognition not only as one of Chopin's greatest works but as an unmistakable launching-point for Skryabin's sublime series of Sonatas.

For the rest Cortot's Polonaises from dates as various as 1923, 1933, and 1947 all feature his characteristic strength (both physical and aesthetic) and visionary understanding of the material.

We still like Cherkassky's 1968 readings for these; and sure enough Cortot and Cherkassky finish by a nose.

Ab-major Polonaise Op. 53:
06'28 Cherkassky, 1968
06'30 Cortot, 1933

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