Mozart & Chopin: Dialogue - Colom

Mozart & Chopin: Dialogue - Colom

Eudora Records  EUD-SACD-1402

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental

W. A. Mozart: Fantasy in D minor, K. 397; Rondo in D major, K. 485; Gigue in G major, K. 574; Adagio in B minor, K. 540; Rondo in A Minor, K. 511; Fantasy in C Minor, K. 475
F. Chopin (1810-1849): 2 of Ecossaises, Op. 72; 6 of Preludes, Op. 28; Waltz in A Minor, Op. 34, No. 2; Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17 No. 4; Ballade in G Minor, Op. 23

Josep Colom, piano

Who knows what Mozart and Chopin might have played had they actually come face to face in or around 1830, if the former had not died so prematurely. They might both have improvised on a given theme, or played together on two pianos. And, given the custom of the day, each would very probably have performed something the other had written. Had that happened, the results might not have been that far removed from what we hear on this recording: a journey towards an imaginary encounter made reality by the exceptional vision and artistry of Josep Colom: with an improvised ornamentation laden with cross-references, an articulation always at pains not to blur this music’s cantabile nature, and a timbre that rather than maximising the polarity between the composers highlights a coherent and overarching narrative within which the two go hand in hand. The album leads us gradually from the dazzling luminosity of the first works towards a gathering, mystery-shrouded darkness, and it doesn’t seem to matter much who wrote which piece: along the way Mozart often, literally, turns into Chopin, and vice versa.

Luca Chiantore, from the album’s liner notes.

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Conservatori del Liceu, Barcelona, 21-24 July 2014
Reviews (1)

Review by John Miller - December 1, 2014

The first recording from Eudora, a new Spanish label dedicated to highest standards in terms of sound quality, musicology and design, was indeed hailed as extraordinary (see Sor: Guitar Sonatas - Ricardo Gallén). They will only be issuing a few discs a year, so I was waiting to see if there was to be another splendid effort next in line. And indeed here it is.

Josep Colom (b. 1947) is from Barcelona, home of his piano lessons. Progressing to Paris, he was a student at École Normale de Musique. He is now a world-wide giver of both solo and orchestral concerts, and a distinguished player of chamber music with other notable musicians. His recording career began 1982 with the complete Sonatas of Manuel Blasco de Nebra (awarded a top Spanish Prize), followed in 1989 by setting down the complete works of Manuel de Falla, now still hailed as the best version of Falla’s works. He also has recorded the complete works of Frederic Mompou. Colom, now a teacher, is a judge in many important piano competitions, including the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.

Colom's concerts show he has a wider view of musicology than many of his peers, the programming of his recitals often being far more creative than theirs. His way of putting together what modern terminology calls a playlist is described eloquently by Luca Chiantore in the booklet from 'Dialogue'. Colom carefully chooses music from several composers whom he thinks have various elements in common, then weaves these pieces together as a form of narrative. Many of the pieces are led into the next by a short extempore extension of the previous cadence (a feature which was common from the Baroque onwards, but rejected now by the idiom of purity of scores).

In live concerts, he has to break his programme into two parts to give the audience their required relaxation, but here, on this recording, his whole story of an imagined musical relationship between Mozart and Chopin fits into the 80 or so minutes of the disc unbroken, generating an unforgettable experience. In my youth I played nearly all of the pieces chosen by Colom, and most of them are still deep favourites. But naively I played them to learn each separately, not to let them teach me what these pieces had to offer in their relationships. Colom certainly makes one think in that direction, and in a multifaceted way.

Playing on a modern Steinway, Colom's style does not follow modern performance practice but activates historical descriptions of Mozart's and Chopin's playing. Noticeable rhythmic fluctuation is applied to both composers, an historical certainty but frowned upon by most modern piano teachers. Evidence shows that Mozart was very flexible in speeds and rhythms. This applies also to pedalling (Chopin pedalled very sparingly) and intensity of dynamics (Chopin mostly produced an extremely reduced level of sound). The result is that the moment you hear Colom playing, you are astonished by the natural spontaneity and deep expressiveness produced by his subtle and perfectly judged interpretations.

Luca Chiantore also draws our attention to some of the relationships embedded in the sequence of pieces (see track list below), mentioning too how Colom engineers the connections. For instance, the sublime D minor Fantasia by Mozart was unfinished, and played nowadays by a "fix" from one of his publishers. Colom dispenses with this and improvising on the previous (Mozartian) cadence, he transforms this the Fantasia into an open work that flows naturally into a second Chopin Écossaise. He also reveals how the daring harmonies of Tristan and Isolde can become a natural bridge between the visionary dissonances of Mozart’s Adagio, K. 540 and the chromatic haziness of Chopin’s Prelude, op. 28 no. 4. On paper this sounds disgraceful, but in practise, it works beautifully. Some pianists will be appalled by his adding bravura ornamentation passages to the cadential passages of Chopin's Waltz, op. 34 no. 2 and the Mazurka, op. 17 no. 4. But having played these pieces myself many times, I was surprised, then delighted, to hear this stylish decoration, because Colom is obeying Chopin's own instructions to his pupils to enrich this way in particular places.

Superb pianism deserves recording of the highest quality. A booklet session photo of the Conservatori del Liceu Concert Hall shows the piano placed near a corner of the venue, no doubt a "sweet spot" for the required ambience. The original format was DSD256 (11.289MHz) in Stereo and 5.0. Simply, sound is amazingly natural and full of detail such as Colom removing the resonating lower notes of a chord while holding the top one. A legion of similar subtleties mean that you can listen to the music without worrying of being disturbed by technology.

The product of Colom's original narrative-based programme, his stunning interpretations and the artistry of Eudora's DSD recording together produce a truly unique musical experience. Even the booklet's beautiful photographs of roses on a dark leafy background hint at the narrative of the music, the pianistic sequence involving the flux of light and dark. The narrative starts with the young composers, often glittering, light-hearted and softly played, and progresses to the symphonic thunder of rage and despair of Mozart's Fantasia in C minor followed by the big-hearted poetry and dynamic bravura of Chopin's Ballade in G Minor.

There is no doubt that the title 'Dialogue' in Josep Colom's mind was his idea of what a meeting of Chopin and Mozart could have been, had Mozart managed to live longer. Chopin, however, paid homage to Mozart, one of his favourite composers (the other was Bach), by incorporating Mozart's styles in his own music.

This disc give pure joy, and induces the listener to immediately play it again.

Track List
Fantasy in D Minor, K. 397, Mozart
Ecossaise in D Major, Op. 72, No. 1, Chopin
Rondo in D Major, K. 485, Mozart
Ecossaise in G Major, Op. 72, No.2, Chopin
Gigue in G Major, K. 574
Prelude in G Major, Op. 28, No. 3, Chopin
Prelude in B Minor, Op. 28, No. 6, Chopin
Adagio in B Minor, K. 540, Mozart
Prelude in E Minor, Op. 28, No. 4, Chopin
Waltz in A Minor, Op. 34, No. 2, Chopin
Prelude in A Major, Op. 28, No. 7, Chopin
Rondo in A Minor, K. 511, Mozart
Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17 No. 4, Chopin
Prelude in F Minor, Op. 28, No. 18, Chopin
Prelude in C Minor, Op. 28, No. 20, Chopin
Fantasy in C Minor, K. 475, Mozart
Ballade in G Minor, Op. 23, Chopin

Copyright © 2014 John Miller and


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