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'Pianism' of the piano

The Best of Chopin
Milestone Entertainment
Rs 80

Picture a salon, a tiny attentive audience, a pianist working his fingers through the keys realising crafty arpeggios and you could almost bet your money it was Chopin. Of course, it could be Liszt as well.

The Best of Chopin is a good collection of the virtuoso pianist's works performed by Idil Beret. Interestingly, his music when composed in Victorian times was often considered sugary and sentimental. Yet today, they provide the very backbone of the repertoire for any concert pianist wanting to perform music from the Romantic era.

Side A begins with Ballade No 3 in A flat major. Crafty chords. A fairly slow composition. Next comes Mazurka No.3 in A flat major. Essentially this is a light traditional Polish piece in triple time where the second beat is typically accentuated either in music or by a tap of the heel of the dancer.

In Nocturne No 2 in E flat major, even though the slow lilting melody repeats itself, you have a new variation each time. A trademark of Chopin. Next, Raindrop paints an interesting image of continuous blobs of raindrops with a regular single note struck all throughout. A serious piece nevertheless.

Marche Funebre as the title suggests is depressing and powerful. Written when the composer had contracted tuberculosis, this slow marching composition speaks volumes about his frustration and despair. A piece often dominated by the left hand with occasional resounding trills.

Side B begins with Heroic Polonaise No 6 in A flat major -- a positive medium-paced piece with occasional strong arpeggios from the left hand, suggesting action. It almost reminded me of the theme from the sci-fi movie Blade Runner by Vangelis.

Minute Waltz No 6 in D flat major is a tremendously fast piece, one I am sure every aspiring pianist would love to play in a minute as the title endorses. Legend has it that the composer was one of the few ever to have achieve that feat.

Etude No 3 in E major is again crafty in its format, varying in tempo with a fairly straightforward melody. The Fantaisie Impromptu in C sharp minor is my favourite. Simply because of the clever repetitive phrases of the melody line which the composer retraces using delayed and extended variations of accompaniment. Secondly, notice the reverberation that the score itself generates by stacking the same notes in quick succession with the apt usage of the sustain pedal.

Scherzo No.2 in B flat minor is a fairly elaborate piece with varying tempo and dynamics. It's aptly described by the term 'scherzo' which generally refers to an unfolding of poetry in a musical setting.

On the whole an album worth going for if you are fascinated by the 'pianism' of the piano.

Arnab Chowdhury

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