on 2 September 2008
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!
on 28 November 2000
This is remarkable. The Godowsky studies on Chopin's etudes are regarded as one of the pinnacles of pianistic super-virtuosity, particularly as regards left hand technique. Of the total of 53 studies, 22 are for left hand alone and are merciless in their difficulties.
The studies have been recorded complete twice before (by Geoffrey Douglas Madge and Carlo Grante), but Hamelin simply blows his rivals away by overcoming all of the technical hurdles with a scarcely believable control, bordering on nonchalance. It is not just that he is a fabulous pianist, but that his astonishing virtuosity allows him to find so much more in the music than mere barnstorming. As he points out in his own notes, many of the studies are intended to be serene rather than forceful in character; it is a tribute to his complete mastery that for the first time the composer's intentions are fulfilled.
I believe this is one of the great piano recordings of recent years and would urge anyone with an interest in the piano to buy it and marvel.
on 25 February 2001
This is remarkable piano playing. Hamelin both masters the extraordinary technical demands of these pieces, widely regarded as among the most difficult ever written, and conveys the intelligence and beauty of these elaborations on Chopin's originals. Anyone who assumes that these works must be nothing more than an unwelcome novelty will be converted after only a few bars of the first study.
A worthy Gramophone award winner last year, these pieces and their performance take pianism to its outer limits
on 20 September 2014
My first adventure into classical music was the !st Tchaikonsky Piano Concerto...my second over 50 years ago Chopins Etudes..I still play them quite regular and was pleased to see on this 2 disc set by Godowski. What beautiful additions to anyone's library To say Chopin`s originals were intricate and ,I believe, difficult to play , these studies must be the nadir of difficulty but also they are fantastic "transcriptions" of the original..They are expertly played on these discs and a treasure to keep with the family jewels.
on 24 August 2012
Whether or not Godowsky's studies on Chopin's originals represent pianistic breakthrough or sheer bad taste has often been debated. What cannot be in dispute is the pianism on these discs. To hear cascades of notes played just with the left hand makes one wonder whether one's ears are hearing right, but there it is. However, being Hamelin, his aims are not just virtuosic but musical too. He also includes his own sleeve notes of each piece which are illuminating. If you like high wire acts on the piano (and I do!) then sit back and marvel.
on 28 November 2007
Godowksy's notoriously difficult arrangements of the Chopin Studies are presented here complete, in a supremely polished recording. Hamelin's pianism is not quite as authentically 'romantic' as it could be and he sometimes falls short of milking the full expressive potential. However, few possess his technical command and he does an extremely good job of achieving necessary lightness within intricate figurations. Perhaps most interesting are the many arrangements for left hand alone (notably the transformation of the tragic E flat minor Etude). It is still not entirely clear why Godowsky went to such pains to devise ingenious ways of keeping his right hand unoccupied, although there are some theories going around. Hamelin's own (as expounded in the liner notes) looks extremely credible, following the recent discovery of a 1920s police document. This charge sheet reveals details of Godowsky's arrest during a recital of left handed repetoire, for behaviour that the local Sheriff deemed to be 'grossly unacceptable' (yes, that's right- even back then public smoking was outlawed in the state of Utah).