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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent performance., 16 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Chopin: 12 Etudes op10 & 25, 3 Nouvelles Etudes, Nocturne 8 (Audio CD)
Excellent performance; as good as any on disc but not as good as I heard played live by Geza Anda long ago.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous playing - unmissable performances, 10 Sep 2013
This review is from: Chopin: 12 Etudes op10 & 25, 3 Nouvelles Etudes, Nocturne 8 (Audio CD)
This set by Ronald Smith sits alongside Pollini, Chiu and Anda on my shelf.

This pianist savours and wants you to hear and enjoy every note of this lovely music....and succeeds!

In the Etude No 1 Op 10 one hears a systematic technical workout in which the musical ideas nevertheless come across with great clarity. The sense of the overall structure and impulse behind each etude is not lost either, each one realised as a very individual jewel. Take the very jaunty dance like interpretation of my favourite, the Etude No 5 Op 25 with its heartstoppingly beautiful melody in the middle: Mr Smith reveals facets which make his performance never dull or permeated with that "sameness" which mars the bulk of studio recordings available. He makes each etude his own. Again, within this rock solid keyboard technique, he is not numb to the romantic beauty of Chopin's melodies. Take the famous Etude No 1 Op 25 which goes under a number of nicknames I find incongruous; his very first chord and slight pause announces "This is very lovely, listen to this". Needless to say it is performed perfectly with an ear to that mysterious third voice which most other pianists simply ignore or iron out of their accounts. In the climatic last etudes of Op 25 again we hear a master pianist able to fully control the tidal wave of chords with the utmost clarity and maintaining the tone of the instrument.

This an extremely generously filled disc (though with his painstaking approach letting the music breathe, Mr Smith's playing of each etude is slightly slower than most others...though you wouldn't know it, because you can hear the notes they sound just as racey and as exciting as any) and you get the three interesting posth. Nouvelles Etudes which he plays supremely well, and the Nocturne non de plus: No 8 in D Flat Op 27 No 2 - the one with the incredible ornamentation and run in the right hand above a gently rocking left hand accompaniment.

What a feast of exquisite Chopin playing on this disc! And the recorded sound is the best I have heard for these Etudes on CD - for sound this APR recording betters EMI, DG, HYPERION, HARMONIA MUNDI. Even in the densest loudest passages, the sound quality is transparent and lively. You hear the instrument...not just a wall of sound.

It took me over forty years to get to Ronald Smith's playing - it is like the summit of a peak - when you hear this disc you will understand why I think it is the top.
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