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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fluid, delicately dramatic, full of Chopin's romance
Pires' interpretations are really stunning, whether you are listening to her Mozart, Schumann or Schubert, or her Chopin. She captures more emotion, more grace, than any other pianist I have heard. And I have heard the nocturnes by so many of our great pianists -- Arrau, Barenboim, Novaes to name a few. Pires has a different approach, a kindness to her touch on the...
Published on 29 Oct 2001

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37 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Much overrated
Maria Joao Pires' set of Chopin's 21 Nocturnes has been extravagantly praised. She certainly performs the nocturnes gracefully, particularly those that come closest to the salon miniatures of the Irish composer, John Field, whose nocturnes Chopin admired. But even at her best, she does not achieve the pliant relationship between melody and accompaniment that marks the...
Published on 20 Oct 2001


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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fluid, delicately dramatic, full of Chopin's romance, 29 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
Pires' interpretations are really stunning, whether you are listening to her Mozart, Schumann or Schubert, or her Chopin. She captures more emotion, more grace, than any other pianist I have heard. And I have heard the nocturnes by so many of our great pianists -- Arrau, Barenboim, Novaes to name a few. Pires has a different approach, a kindness to her touch on the piano, that fluffs out these noctures, filling them with a patience, an adoration, that has not been recorded before. The fluidity and style comes not just from Pires' fingers but from her heart, and what you get is a rich evocation not just of Chopin's notes on the paper but of his own heart and mind. These are not your typical, textbook interpretation. If you want that, I suggest the very nice Barenboim. But if you've heard these works many times before and want a change, something different, something fuller and more romantic, tender as well as subtlely powerful, do try this Pires. You will hear the nocturnes as you have never heard them before -- perhaps even think that these are new, undiscovered works, they differ so delightfully from others' recordings. This collection is far superior to any of her predecessors', and I would think that years from now she'll be admired as having delivered a classic performance on these CDs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine group of performances by three fine pianists to consider, 21 Jan 2013
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
These discs, recorded in 1995 and 1996, provide a real alternative type of interpretation to those of Rubinstein or Ashkenazy to name but two of the considerable number of fine pianists recorded in this repertoire. The recording is sensitive and appropriate to the performances.

Most strikingly there is more rubato applied to the music than either of the two pianists named above. This, coupled with a generally forward moving pace, creates a marked sense that this is a set of almost improvisatory performances. The improvisatory feel to the performances however seems to be a totally natural outcome of the playing and not simply imposed upon the music by formula. This stops any sense of cloying additional emotionalism. Pires also employs a somewhat gentle touch throughout, which is not to say the the more forceful passages lack appropriate power. The performances produce a sense of affectionate warmth which is both attractive and convincing. The scale of the performances is quite intimate when compared with others.

One of the others could be Ashkenazy whose performances are altogether more architectural and conceived on a bigger emotional scale altogether. There is no doubt that there is more 'steel' in his finger-work so to speak and the tempos are kept more stable than Pires with far less rubato applied. Once more, there is no sense of overplaying the emotional content however and this too makes for a very satisfying experience. His recording is more 'present' to match the larger concept which is more of a concert hall approach in its effect as compared to the more intimate Pires.

Rubinstein goes even further along the road of intimacy with the sense that this has been recorded with a small room in mind, rather a chamber music approach. Rubinstein also keeps the rubato in check and his approach is by far the coolest of the three. Every note is clearly defined and, to quote other sources, it can be likened to a row of perfectly formed pearls set before us to admire and appreciate. Rubinstein's recording is rather closely balanced and still has a touch of woodenness about it despite the clear improvements made since LP days and early CDs.

There are three fine choices available here but all quite different. I would suggest that all three warrant very serious consideration for any potential purchaser and all three are capable of giving considerable satisfaction. Choosing the favoured discs may be a matter of assessing ideas of warmth, coolness, scale of performance (intimate up to larger) and the degrees of rubato leading to improvisatory or architectural impressions that would be most agreeable to individual taste.

Finally it should be mentioned that DGG have now issued this recording at a lower price point.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite Chopin, 21 Mar 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
Pires' Nocturnes are beautifully nuanced and controlled. She understands the late-night poetry of this music more than any other pianist I've heard, and DG's stunning sound only enhances the pleasure of this set. If you only need one Chopin record it's this one.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PURE POETRY. SPARKLING !, 21 April 2010
By 
ONOFRE MOREIRA (Ovar, PORTUGAL) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
This year of 2010 is the commemorative year of the 200th anniversary of FRYDERYK CHOPIN's birth (or, in french, FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN), the famous, beloved and sophisticated polish Composer and Pianist.

In the Chopin's world, among the very great pianists, ARTUR RUBINSTEIN is a legend. "Chopin" - wrote him in one's own hand - "was a genius of universal appeal. His music conquers the most diverse audiences. When the first notes of Chopin sound through the concert hall there is a happy sigh of recognition".[...]"When I play Chopin I know I speak directly to the hearts of people!" ["The Chopin Collection", RCA Red Seal, in the booklet of "The Ballades" & "The Scherzos" (complete), and on others of the collection].
Another legendary pianist of this world is CLAUDIO ARRAU (on PHILIPS label).
They are indispensable models (references).
Also SVIATOSLAV RICHTER is a powerful example (Philips, "The Authorised Recordings"; DECCA, "20th Century Piano Works", and Regis).
But, among the alived ones, we found very distinguished Chopin performers: MARTHA ARGUERICH (DG and EMI), MAURIZIO POLLINI (DG), MARIA JOĆO PIRES (DG, Erato), VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY (DECCA), DANIEL BARENBOIM (DG), KRYSTIAN ZIMERMAN (DG), EVGENY KISSIN (RCA Red Seal), MURRAY PRAHIA (SONY - But, in my opinion, his "Ballades" and "Etudes" are excessively valued by "Gramophone")...

To pay homage to the composer FRYDERYK CHOPIN, I search for a disc in my library. The choose is not easy. I opt for the "NOCTURNES" by the portuguese pianist MARIA JOĆO PIRES. [Chopin developed and increased, at a highest degree, the "Nocturnes" of its pioneer JOHN FIELD (on NAXOS label), the delightful irish composer and pianist].
The CHOPIN's "NOCTURNES" are magnificent and magnetic works.
A necklace of 21 pearls.

There are no adjectives to qualify the performance of Maria Joćo Pires.
"No moon in the sky ever length such a glow..." (from the song "Woman in Love").
Poetic, glamourous, with splendour, the piano sings under her fingers. And sings marvellousely.
The sound is truly wonderful, with an astonishing clearness and amazing purity.
The recording is magnificent, assisted to all the contemporary technology.

"Maria Joćo Pires [is] among the most eloquent master-musicians of our time" ("Gramophone").
Or, paraphrasing A. Rubinstein, Maria Joćo Pires "speaks directly to the hearts of people!".

These discs are essential in any classical music's library.
Total playing time: 50'29 (disc 1) + 58'42 (disc 2); 4D - DDD; "Deutsche Grammophon" - 2 CDs; Published in 1996.
The box set, with a beautiful cover, also includes a very good booklet (with a worthy cover - see above), in english, germany, french, italian and spanish.
The music have no frontiers.

ONOFRE MOREIRA (PORTUGAL)
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most beautiful performance, 25 May 2012
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This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
Pires plays Chopin's 21 Nocturnes most beautifully. She brings out the languid feeling of the pieces. The light and shade of the nuance are expressed very well.

She uses rubato judiciously and effectively. When rubato is done with genuine artistry - as in the case of Pires - the effect shows an admirable sense of freedom and spontaneity.

I have always liked Rubinstein's recordings made in the mid-1960s (in his late years). But, he plays only 19 pieces, missing out the two last pieces published posthumously. Pires plays them - particularly No.20 in C sharp minor - beautifully.

The digital recording, made in the mid-1990s, is warm and most realistic. This 2-CD set is highly recommendable.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Interpretations, 5 Feb 2011
By 
Musica Vita (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
Having read the other reviews, I see that these performances are controversial. I find myself firmly on the "pro" side. Chopin has never been a favourite composer of mine, but these interpretations of the Nocturnes have done what those of Ashkenazy, Argerich, Vasary and Pizarro (good though they all are) have not: convinced me of the greatness of Chopin. In her hands he is up there with Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and Schubert.

There is something about her interpretations that just convinces me at least that her view of this music is right. And if you don't know them listen to some of her Mozart, Bach or Schumann recordings, or the Brahms violin sonatas with Augustin Dumay. (I don't enthuse about her Schubert, so don't think I'm an uncritical worshipper.)

DG's recording is, as usual, first-class, and if you want to demonstrate your hi-fi, you may choose to use one of these CDs.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 11 Sep 2010
By 
M. Yung (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
I'm very satisfied with this recording. I love Chopin's nocturns and have more than 5 different recordings. This is one of the best of them and competitively priced as well.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent!, 4 Nov 2010
This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
Just a word: magnificent! Performance and recording are really very good.
You just listen and listen... and each time you listen again you want to listen one more time...
That's all!
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37 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Much overrated, 20 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
Maria Joao Pires' set of Chopin's 21 Nocturnes has been extravagantly praised. She certainly performs the nocturnes gracefully, particularly those that come closest to the salon miniatures of the Irish composer, John Field, whose nocturnes Chopin admired. But even at her best, she does not achieve the pliant relationship between melody and accompaniment that marks the best Chopin playing.
So why have most critics hailsed this set as the successor to those of Arthur Rubinstein?
What Pires' fans respond to, one suspects, is the pianist's approach to the nocturnes. Among the most fashionable ideas in Chopin scholarship is that the composer's nocturnes, like those of Field, were direct descendants of the purely vocal nocturnes commonly performed in the aristocratic salons of the day. Music historians such as Jeffrey Kallberg emphasize the importance of Chopin's debt to the graceful, sweet vocal lines -- occasionally with contrasting passages of declamatory recitative -- of these models.
More than almost any of her predecessors or contemporaries, Pires underlines this generic relationship. Her flexible tempos breathe naturally, and she frequently makes the nocturnes sound as if they could be sung. She also makes the listener aware, as many pianists do not, of the speech-like nature of many of their recitatives -- such as that of Opus 48, No. 2 in F sharp minor, in which musical strands wordlessly evoke a sense of statement and response. These are genuine achievements, but they are not significant enough to justify some of the praise this set has received.
Let's look at the one piece in which Pires' failure to play well is most conspicuous: the Nocturne in C minor (Opus 48, No. 1). It's the nocturne that -- superficially, at least -- least fits the quasi-salon pattern established by the others. The opening is freighted with unease; a ferocious octave crescendo leads into a passage of agitated recitative; and the pianissimo conclusion evokes an aftermath of utter desolation.
It is not enough to say that Pires' tiny hands and less-than-complete technique fail her here -- though they do; it is her conception that is faulty. The premise of her nocturnes is that they need to be performed with a beautiful sound and a flexible, unbroken line. But the C minor Nocturne is not about beauty, it is about brutality and grief; and it is not about the sustenance of a line, but about its breakdown.
But how singular, really, is the C minor Nocturne? Paul Dukas long ago suggested that Chopin's most important legacy was the inventiveness that permitted him to move effortlessly from one genre to another. Three of the nocturnes clearly belong to the salon genre, but they are juvenilia -- the posthumously published pieces in E minor, C-sharp minor and C minor.
Chopin's mature nocturnes, from the first three of Opus 9 to the final diptych of Opus 62, are indeed vocal -- but this quality suggests the theater rather than the salon. And it is theatricality -- a sense of the unexpected -- that Pires' nocturnes, fine as they sometimes are, lack. Compare her version of the Nocturne in C-sharp minor (opus 27, No. 1) to the even more flexible version recorded live by Evgeny Kissin (BMG). From the first bars, the Russian makes the listener expect that something is about to happen. And he increases the tension by slowing the tempo almost, but not quite, to the breaking point as he approaches the central section. The storm comes suddenly and terrifyingly, and it is more powerful than in Pires' performance, not merely because Kissin commands more sonority, but because he has more imagination.
It is the imaginative aspect of his music that Field objected to when he called Chopin ``a sickroom talent.'' The remark is usually understood as a disparaging reference to the small forms in which the frail, tubercular Chopin often worked. But what Field was more likely to have been referring to was the delirious, disturbingly hallucinatory and impassioned visions often suffered by the sick and the dying.
In that sense, of course, Field was right. Chopin's music has the power to conjure up disturbing visions, whether in the painful and bitter coda of the C-sharp minor Nocturne, the dark pessimism of the C minor or the mysterious colors of the shadowy final pair in B major and E major.
And it is such visions that Pires' pretty, but generic, performances fail to capture. Kallberg calls the recitative that concludes the Nocturne in B major (Opus 32, No. 1) ``perhaps the most dramatic affirmation'' of the genre's vocal background. But compare Pires' with Guiomar Novaes' dramatic and menacing performance (Vox). The great Brazilian suddenly takes her foot off the sustaining pedal, thereby achieving a sense of disturbing finality that is beyond Pires' imaginative powers. Chopin was not one to encourage programmatic interpretations. But Novaes suggests a tableau in which a feverish person suddenly rises from his sickbed, points to an apparition, cries out and dies.
If Pires' achievement is that she focuses unprecedented attention on the generic vocal origins of Chopin's nocturnes, her failing is that she neglects what is unprecedented and original about the music itself.
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but problematic recording., 14 Aug 2010
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This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
Pires plays the Master's Nocturnes well, but the recording, especially on the second of the two discs, features her stertorous breathing and snorting, which is most distracting. How on earth did the engineering geniuses at DG allow the lady to go on like this? She sounds like a patient struggling with emphysema. Spoils the experience. (Hope she was treated successfully for the condition.)
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