Along with Schubert and Brahms, Chopin for me represents the high point of Romantic music. The enormous variety of music that he wrote still astounds me, but until recently I had not bothered to listen to the etudes closely. Only after I bought this CD (on the strength of the excellent reviews) did I delve into Chopin's opus 10 and 25 sets. I'm glad I did.
After listening to the Etudes in their original form one by one and then listening to Godowsky's recastings of them, I felt renewed enthusiasm for the great Polish/French composer. I also sat back astounded and respectufl at what Godowsky was able to do with them. He doesn't veer far away from Chopin's originals; there are certainly more notes but this doesn't get in the way at all. The left hand etudes in particular I find stunning, I can feel the pianist's corsucating difficulties in surmounting the hurdles that these pieces pose, and that just makes me more in awe of Godowsky's writing. It's amazing what he was able to do, I mean the man wrote rewrote some of the most difficult, beautiful studies of the Romantic period for just one hand! It's amazing.
The harmonies also become richer in these recastings, more 'late Romantic' than 'Romantic,' but I didn't find that this got in the way of the music at all, sometimes it even added to it! In this, Godowsky is far more subtle than, say, Grieg was in the additions that he wrote to Mozart's piano sonatas. Mozart wasn't intended to sound like some nordic-highland pastiche, and yet that is just about what Grieg made them into. Unlike Grieg, Godowsky is enormously respectful to Chopin's originals. The main spirit of each etude is maintained, and in many cases, added to.
Hamelin's performance is breathtaking at every turn, and the recording quality is surprisingly good. I think that every piano enthusiast/player should listen carefully to these discs, I'm almost certain that they will be enjoyed!