Historical interpretations of Friderick Chopin works

skip to menu

Jerzy Lalewicz - skill characteristics


In the National Library there are three recordings of Chopin’s works made by Jerzy Lalewicz. They were recorded around 1948 for Odeon (published in Argentina).

Nocturne in C sharp minor Op. 27 No. 1 begins piano pianissimo and legatissimo with the right pedal on, which makes repeated C sharp minor chords a bit blurred (great effect!). Then the melody appears in the right hand, brightened with E sharp note, which changes minor into major (C sharp major). This magnificent Chopin’s concept is not exaggerated by the pianist. It is slightly emphasized and used as a means of artistic expression. Although in the text (Paderewski edition) the slurs encompass four-bar groups, Lalewicz organizes his playing in eight-bar phrases making the melody more fluent and flowing. In bar 11 a right hand octave (C sharp – C sharp) is broken (arpeggio), which is not taken from the score but arises from his artistic needs. The second part (piu mosso) is accelerated as in the score; however, the tempo is adjusted to the expression and dynamics of the right hand chords. The climax marked appassionato (bar 45) is achieved by gradual intensification of the motion; it is resolved in next eight bars with reduced tension. An octave run in the left hand (bar 83) is executed with rhythmical freedom as a kind of cadenza which leads to recapitulation (Tempo primo). From bar 94 the pianist plays beautiful calando marked in the text and two bars later he adds an echo effect. The work ends in deep piano.

Mazurka in C sharp minor Op. 30 No. 4 is presented by Lalewicz as a kind of a story, full of anxiety and changeable moods. The beginning, played in piano (first notes are soft, hardly audible), is mysterious, a bit sorrowful and melancholic. The pianist’s rendering of kujawiak here is superb. It is bar 33, where mazurka appears – musical dance with well articulated punctuated rhythmical background in the left hand underlined by bass notes. In coda (from bar 123 on) the pianist accelerates. However, he does not ignore diminuendo marked in the text. In the last chord Lalewicz emphasizes the sound of a perfect fifth (C sharp – G sharp).

Some pianists treat Mazurka in A minor Op. 68 No. 2 as one of Chopin’s “late” works, judging it by its high opus number, and claim that it should be played with dignity. However, this work comes from Chopin’s student years (1827) and it is a humorous stylization of the Polish folk dance – mazurka. The pianist follows Chopin’s idea and builds his interpretation on monotonous accompaniment based on tonic (imitation of a folk band), which forms a background for a vivid melody. The work is played without repetitions (which are marked in the Paderewski edition), and its exposition lacks bars 8-15. It makes the form more concise – it is a trait of the nineteenth century practice.

All the above-mentioned works are played with rich and sonorous sound.

See also