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CD Review

Felix Mendelssohn

Piano Sonatas

  • Sonata in E Major, Op. 6
  • Sonata in G minor, Op. 105
  • Sonata in B Flat Major, Op. 106
  • Rondo capriccioso in E Major, Op. 14
Frederic Chiu, piano
Harmonia Mundi HMU907117 DDD 66:33
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The Julliard-trained Chiu created a sensation recently by his elimination from an early round of the Van Cliburn Competition in Texas where he was expected to finish in the medals. His choice of repertoire did not appeal to the jury apparently. The same thing happened to Pogorelich at the Chopin in 1980, though his detractors may have been on to something; he has developed into an annoyingly willful pianist.

Chiu is his own man too, but like Glenn Gould, his keyboard insights are bolstered by good scholarship. Harmonia Mundi has trusted Chiu with the liner notes to each of his releases, and he has responded with succinct, engaging essays. It's nice to have an occasional "word from the artist"; it dispels the suspicion that they are just thoroughbreds of dexterity, incapable of articulation away from the instrument. I hope he keeps it up.

Mendelssohn's innate fluency seems tailored to Chiu's delicacy and control. The familiar Rondo capriccioso is breathtaking; the phrasing and dynamics remain pliable even at the highest speeds. From what I've heard, Chiu has a future in Scarlatti. We need someone to add to the Horowitz legacy of brilliant, plastic pianism. The sonatas here aren't just filler, either. They are patterned after Beethoven's but with a more objective eye in their approach to drama. After a hard day of living one's own "Pathétique" there is nothing wrong with a little gentility. Tres nifty!

Copyright © 1998, Robert J. Sullivan