I came to these recordings whilst still in my twenties and was instantly enthralled. Having heard the likes of Rubinstein, who seemed to have a mission to accentuate the masculine in Chopin's music, I had remained unimpressed, even detached. But Vasary touches the soul of these works and recognises instinctively the essentially feminine nature of so much of Chopin's output, lending a genuinely haunting, reflective and wistful air to the nocturnes especially, which touches the heart effortlessly and conveys what this music is really about. There are meatier performances, and steelier ones, but for me Vasary's remain the ones closest to Chopin's original intent and have not been eclipsed by any performances I have heard since. Time has not diminished the appeal of these recordings. Beautiful and underrated
I also heard Vasary many years ago in these recordings and agree entirely with the other reviewers. His sensitivity and phrasing are superb and he is as close to the Chopin of my imagination as possible. In fact he shaped my perception of Chopin and all these years later it is as captivating as ever. Some early experiences embarrass you when you revisit them but Vasary in certain pieces is almost peerless.
Having heard Vasary's interpretation of the Ballades years ago on vinyl, I have been searching everywhere to obtain those recordings on CD - and now I have them! All of the Ballades are beautifully, passonately and clearly performed, but the rendition of No:4 is truly sublime, surpassing all subsequent efforts that I have heard. The rest of the collection (scherzos, waltzes etc.) are executed perfectly, with Vasary's consummate ease and musicianship. This collection is truly a joy to listen to - even if the age of the recordings means that the sound quality is not as good as a more recent one - that can be forgiven and forgotten, with the depth of emotion that comes through. For Chopin lovers, this is a 'must have'!
Nothing prepares one for this onslaught. Tamas Vasary is a reputable, B-grade concert pianist who nowadays spends more time on the podium than at the keyboard. His Waltzes, Ballades and Scherzi here cannot compete with the likes of Rubinstein and Arrau (the latter being sovereign in Opus 70 / 3). But the Nocturnes are another matter. Perhaps he was touched by the Hand of Diana or aced it on the day; I don't know; nor does it matter. Whatever the explanation be, Vasary is punching way above his weight division. We are the beneficiaries.
Like all masters in this domain, Vasary bespeaks twilight, fragility and transience "in the forests of the night". But there is something more in play. As recorded here, the very first Nocturne in B Flat Minor - Chopin at his most chimerical - is just as subversive of the Newtonian time / space continuum as Einstein. Much the same could be said of the other Nocturnes. Perhaps therein lies their appeal, particularly to those among us who are Janus-faced and ever-trying to encompass our own Books of Genesis, Exodus, Judges and Ruth (Opus 27 /1):
"Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live My very life again though cold in death: Come back to me in dreams, that I may give Pulse for pulse, breath for breath: Speak low, lean low, As long ago, my love, how long ago."
And does not Opus 27/2 seem like an answer to everything?
If one lacks this mindset, Vasary is going to appear damn ordinary.
The recording is just as atmospheric as the performances themselves.