Chopin - 24 Preludes
1. Prelude 25 Opus 45
24 Preludes Opus 28
2. Prelude No. 1 in C
26. Berceuse Opus 57
BBC Music Magazine April 2011
Daniel Grimwood here contributes his own booklet note, whose blog-like manner could do with some editing, but which also contains some thought-provoking insights into the composer, the music, and the 1851 Erard piano on which it's recorded. Yes, the mechanics of this can sometimes be audibly contrary; the reduced volume-range is not what today's ears are used to; nor is the swimming-pool effect of the evidently looser type of damper-pedal mechanism. But as Grimwood says: 'The pianist is at liberty to play melodies with a full-throatedness which would sound vulgar on a modern instrument'.
This is the key to what makes his interpretations so impressive. Surging out of the switchback-like contrasts and (mostly) miniature forms of the 24 Preludes comes an unforced power and grandeur, articulated in a warmly rounded, rather baritonal sonority that does real justice to the immensity of Chopin's imagination. Grimwood conjures some remarkable sounds, like the iridescent chord sequences above the deep pedal-note in the A flat Prelude's coda. He also has a beautifully natural way of allowing contrasts to speak at full value without exaggerating them: the D flat 'Raindrop' Preulde is all the more memorable for this kind of anti-melodramatic straightforwardness. His way with much of the Berceuse at first seems matter-of-fact, until you realise that it is cannily setting up a delivery of the coda whose silvery poise haunts the memory. And the posthumous C sharp minor Nocturne - above all the exquisite shading of the closing right-hand scales - similarly reveals a true keyboard artist at work.
For this recording, the Erard piano has been completely reconditioned and tuned to the Bach-Lehmann temperament, giving it greater depth in the bass, clarity in the treble, and evenness across the whole range.
Grimwood writes his own notes which puts the programme into a historical perspective during a period when "no instrument tolerated such accelerated development as the piano" and he discusses "the inseparable equation between instrumental sonority and musical conception" and Chopin's own writing for the instrument he knew.
Grimwood is a multi-instrumentalist (viola as well as all keyboards) and his diversity of experience preserves spontaneity, which comes across in this absorbing Chopin recital; not so smoothly perfect as some competitors in the field, but a disc which brings you far closer to the composer and his world of sound than do many others.
Peter Grahame Woolf