Historical interpretations of Friderick Chopin works

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Zbigniew Drzewiecki - skill characteristics


Together with Zofia Rabcewicz and Robert Casadesus, Zbigniew Drzewiecki represents so-called modern pianistic style. His tempo rubato is balanced, and drama and emotions are subject to clarity of narration. Drzewiecki is in control of nuances – some of them emerge as if by accident, others are strongly emphasized. However, his recorded legacy is uneven. Recordings made on the Chopin’s grand piano (Muza XL 0117) are not so brilliant as others. Rather unclear rendering of Mazurka in F minor Op. 68 No. 4 may imply that this work was played a prima vista, for this recording only.

“Objective” playing of Drzewiecki is best exemplified in Etude in C sharp minor Op. 25 No. 7 recorded on a high-speed record of Muza (1191). Calm melody creates very poetic mood and the tone as well as waving cantilena with magnificent legato is beautiful. The pianist consciously turns down the narration in the middle of this Etude to facilitate changing sides of the record without disturbing the flow of emotions. Poetic simplicity is also remarkable in the recording of the same Etude made on Chopin’s instrument. In Impromptu in A flat major recorded on the same piano the sound becomes worryingly strong. The price of presentation of texture details is insufficient lyricism of the middle section of the work.

Among Mazurkas the most remarkable performances come from high-speed Muza records. Mazurka in A minor with an inscription A Emile Gaillard (Muza 1193) is delicate, but deprived of tenderness, with well-engraved small melodic sections and mazurka rubato. In Mazurka in G sharp minor Op. 33 No. 1 (Muza 1192) Drzewiecki combines epic character with subtly expressed soul of dancing. Interpretation of this work recorded on Chopin’s grand is more impoverished. It lacks “speaking” melodic details. In Mazurka in A flat major Op. 59 No. 2 (Muza SX 1891) “objective” playing disperses any drawing room associations, and mazurka rubato is accompanied with pathos. Although Mazurkas recorded on Chopin’s piano are sometimes deprived of charm, Mazurka in A minor Op. 17 No. 4 is played with remarkable tiny fluctuations of the tempo, and the rhetoric cry before recapitulation as well as folk mazurka which appears in the coda is magnificent. The popular Mazurka in A minor Op. 68 No. 2 is rendered with beautiful simplicity.

Nocturnes Op. 15 (Muza XEPN 0126) were formed as miniatures – rhythmical simplicity of narration comes with efforts to build very long energetic ties. Overwhelming “beauty of the moment” concludes Nocturne in F major, slightly pompous march frames rhythmically rich central section of Nocturne in F sharp major, and chorale-like middle section of Nocturne in G minor refers to the tradition of the Orthodox Church. Another Nocturne on this record, in E flat major Op. 55 No. 2 is a conspicuous example of magnificent proportions of cantilena to contrapuntal accompaniments, whereas Nocturne in E minor Op. Posth. exemplifies how to match long phrase with rhetorically formed motifs. The pianist’s erudition is present in the recording of Nocturne in C sharp minor Op. Posth. issued in Complete Works (Muza XEPN 0126): echoes of the works are played with clear reference to the source poetics. Unfortunately, the Chopin’s instrument does not let Drzewiecki sound as subtle as with a contemporary grand piano.

Sound qualities of the historic instrument are demonstrated in full in Polonaises Op. 26 (Muza XL 0117). In Polonaise in C sharp minor rhythmical figures are derived from dance archetypes, whereas Polonaise in E flat minor is modelled on epos, where particular segments correspond to protagonists and the whole work ends with a dramatic recitative.

Preludes recorded on Chopin’s piano is not charismatic: “objective” playing does not develop into poetry in Prelude in D flat major, Prelude in A major sounds worryingly didactic, and the cantilena of Prelude in B minor lacks spirituality. Although Waltz in A flat major Op. 69 No. 1 (Muza XL 0117) could be more inspired, Waltz in C sharp minor Op. 64 No. 2 from the same record is played with magnificent tempo rubato. The beginning of the “Minute” Waltz in D flat major Op. 64 No. 1 (Muza SX 1891) resembles a musical box, but the whole work ends with enchanting spinning wheel, beautifully juxtaposed with fragments of delicate meditation, as if Chopin was referring to different personalities of Eusebius and Florestan.

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