Let me provide a bit of balance here - I would've normally gone for 4 stars but in this case 5 seems appropriate given the unreasonably harsh rating by the other reviewer! I think Ashkenazy's Mazurkas are among the best complete sets, of which there are surprisingly few. If pushed I'd still go for Rubinstein (either impulsive and spontaneous from the 1930s or more sober from the 1960s) but this is a very close second. Recommended.
on 15 July 2013
There seems to be different opinions of this double CD of Chopin's Mazurkas performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy for Decca. Ashkenazy recorded them through the 1970/80s and for me they are all beautifully played. He manages to convey the right emotions with strong but sensitive playing and it was a joy to hear my favourite Mazurkas, like the op.59 set(A minor, A flat major and F sharp minor) or A minor op.17 and C sharp minor op.6. Plus, it was also very refreshing to hear the many Mazurkas I didn't know which, of course, was due to Ashkenazy's brilliant playing. Highly recommended.
on 17 June 2008
Chopin's music is so multi-faceted and interesting. Deeply mournful, joyful, nostalgic; and I think that it is the mazurkas that show all of these moods the most clearly and the most beautifully.
Yet in this recording I can hear absolutely none of the composer's intentions. There are very few mazurkas that sound anything other than 'sight read.' There are no nuances, no subtelties. This is a deeply tragic recording. It is hard to imagine how Ashkenazy could make Rachmaninoff sound so deeply beautiful, and Prokofiev so wonderful, yet make Chopin's most gorgeous miniatures sound so boring. Sure, he can play the notes, but there is no emotion, no moments where the music seems to affect me at all. The fast mazurkas are too fast, and it just sounds like the performer doesn't understand the point of the slow ones. It is as if he wanted to record the 'Complete works of Chopin' as quickly as possible. Stay away from this recording if you like Chopin. Search Rubinstein or Michelangeli or Argerich instead. She only recorded three of them that I know of, yet they are more worth listening to than the two hours of boringness here. I've owned this set for about ten years and my opinion just becomes stronger as time goes on.
on 14 November 2012
I found myself wishing for idiomatic turns of phrase and dollops of Polish spirit / nuance. This is our due. Instead, we get a heavy keyboard presence and Russian salon music. Some sparks of Chopin are here, but all too few.
Best to pass this one up. Polish labels and Polish pianists have been well reviewed recently and those will be a better wager. This one gives the impression of an overconfident pianist taking a fly over.