CHOPIN Fryderyk

….. Their interpretation turned out to be a master piece through the use of lean, but colorful sound effects, the finest agogic and an intimate understanding of the possibilities of musical rhetoric.  With Radio Bremen as the co-producer, the accompanying booklet does not offer a translation. But it is ultimately the responsibility of Celestial Harmonies- from Tucson Arizona- that a German text is not supplied. This makes the extensive essay in English written by Roger Woodward even more informative.
It is unusual for a performer to provide such a well informed and intelligent discussion of the interpreted pieces, and equally unusual for the underlying performance principles to be discussed in such a straightforward and sensible fashion, especially the booklet. This allows Woodward to substantiate his claim that the present chamber version may have possibly been the original version: “It is possible that it was in this enlarged string form that the first private
performance was accompanied by a small chamber orchestra form when Chopin first [……]1830”
Moreover, the unusual instrumentation, at least from current perspectives, is not out of line with the performance practices of Chopin’s time: “ The post-Baroque….......... light accompaniment“. The common late baroque practice of a light string accompaniment in the form of a quartet or quintet, had already been adopted by Mozart in his first piano concertos following those of Johann Christian Bach. Therefore, Chopin’s arrangements followed a well-established tradition.
All these doomsday prophets who blast the string quartet version talk about Chopin’s lack of orchestration abilities, being too heavy handed, and the tuttis being too compacted especially because the Alexander Quartet and Roger Woodward selected the sound of the Boesendorfer over that of the more dazzling and powerful Steinway. By creating a rich and highly nuanced sound spectrum these glorious musicians have taken it on themselves to rehabilitate Chopin and, respectively create the most translucent sound effects.
Given that Chopin’s most exceptional accomplishment lies in the fact that he somehow manages to transmit the sound of the Italian bel canto opera, especially Bellini’s, to the keyboard—an instrument that is by no means designed to sing—these are the ideal Chopin interpreters. This applies to both phrasing, and articulation, and as far as the strings are concerned, to sparing, but yet powerful vibrato openings.
A piano quartet composed by a fifteen-year-old Beethoven is included as an extra gift, a piece which in many places resembles either a most professional finger excercise or talent show and in hindsight, may spark thoughts of genius. Here again it is a remarkable level of technical mastery that is displayed by the performing musicians.

“Woodward played with astonishing calm… in Woodward I sensed the composer’s real intentions…  here is a player with real integrity.”  Christchurch Symphony, Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto, 1995