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Chopin: Polonaises - Janusz Olejniczak

Chopin: Polonaises - Janusz Olejniczak

BeArTon  CDB037

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Chopin: Polonaises WN 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 11, 12, 15 & 35

Janusz Olejniczak (piano)

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Review by John Miller - February 26, 2008

The on-going Polish National Edition of Chopin works aims to produce an authentic edition based wherever possible on manuscript sources and the results of research on their dating. Its Series B collects the works not published by Chopin himself. Many of them were published by Fontana as op. post. 66-74, and they appear as such in many later editions. However, this gives the impression that they were all late works, which is usually not the case. The National Edition has dated these works and given them numbers in chronological order, e.g. WN 1, etc (Wydanie Narodawe = National Edition).

BeArTon have been producing a phonographic edition in parallel. There are now 3 SACDS, and the present disc contains all the 9 unpublished Polonaises, with Janusz Olejniczak, one of Poland's most renowned players of Chopin, at the keyboard.

The Polonaise was an aristocratic dance-form which deeply affected Chopin from his childhood, and indeed all the Polonaises here date from his formative years in Warsaw. They include his first written composition at the age of 7, and a comparison with Mozart at this age shows that Chopin was well in advance of him, both in technical skill and maturity of expression. Indeed, many of us would recognise the Polonaise in B flat major, WN1, already as being by Chopin. He continued to write Polonaises throughout his career.

Hearing these Polonaises played in chronological order, with the superb advocacy of Janusz Olejniczak's beautiful and sympathetic pianism, is a fascinating and deeply touching experience. One sees how quickly this young boy develops his own unique identity as a composer. He takes in and fuses the fashionable sentimental salon style and the virtuoso style of Weber. By the age of 11 he already has great confidence and control over his material, and a formidable technical skill at the piano. At 14 he is developing the elegant style of flourishes and ornaments which are so characteristic. He next strengthens his grasp of structure, and makes the trio of the Polonaise a much more important element, then by 18 he has almost fully developed his characteristic harmonic colours, with subtle use of dissonance. At nearly all stages we are aware of his poetic gifts and ability to spin fantasy. Chopin, as it were, almost grows before your ears!

With most other composers, these pieces would be called 'juvenilia' and only listened to by musical historians. In fact, Chopin's early Polonaises are astonishingly mature and make a delightful concert. They should be heard by all lovers of the composer.

The recording, in 5.0 HD PCM. mastered to DSD, was made in the Concert Studio of Polish Radio, and the Steinway has great warmth and presence. The ample booklet, in Polish and English, has an account of the National Edition project and also notes on the pieces played, as well as black and white illustrations from the period.

Discs, including the RBCDs from the Complete Chopin Edition Series A, can easily be obtained at a good price (choice of dollar or euro) at http://www.bearton.pl/sklep/index.php?lang=en&value=USD.

Copyright © 2008 John Miller and HRAudio.net

Performance:

Sonics (Stereo):

Sonics (Multichannel):

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - December 22, 2009

In the past I owned the 'complete' set on vinyl by Adam Harasiewicz and I have collected Idil Biret's even 'more complete' set on Naxos RDBC. Beautifully though she plays, quite a number of these disks are marred by unpleasant low noise sounds. BearTon's complete and authentic recordings seemed therefore an excellent opportunity to acquire unnumbered works, left out by others and in Super Audio on top of that.

Not only this compilation, but even more so the way these pieces are interpreted by former Chopin Piano Competition prizewinner, Janusz Olejniczak (1970), widens one's insight in Chopin's roots which he cherished, nourished and kept all his life (to the point where some see him as a composer who was unable to further develop his talents)and I have no hesitation in giving 5 stars for the intellectual and musical content.

I am, on the other hand, not so enthusiastic about the recording. This does not concern the fact that the original was PCM, later converted to DSD. My main complaint is that the surround mix gives so much emphasis on the surround speakers that the whole sound picture becomes blurred. Switching to SA stereo certainly was an improvement, although the recording is extremely high level, giving the listener the feeling that his head is inside the grand (where, most probably, the stereo microphone were located) resulting in pedal and mechanical noise at the lower end of the spectrum.

For comparison I listened to Octavia's TRITON disk of the three sonatas performed by the Japanese Masako Ezaki, also a pupil of Madame Hesse-Bukovska. What a difference! Like you are sitting in the same room at Zelazowa Wola, as I had the pleasure to do on several occasions in the seventies, with the 'weekly' Chopin performer. So natural, so balanced. Multi Channel recording clearly is not everybody’s' skill. That said, I recommend this disk to 'collectionneurs' and Chopin lovers who go for the music rather than the sound.

Copyright © 2009 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

Performance:

Sonics (Stereo):

Sonics (Multichannel):

stars stars stars