Charles Richard-Hamelin’s Chopin: Concentration and Purposefulness

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

The clear, singing tone and technical refinement distinguishing Charles Richard-Hamelin’s 2015 International Chopin Competition performances issued by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, along with his previous (2015) solo-Chopin Analekta release, make themselves felt throughout the Ballades and Impromptus. At times the calculation behind his carefully meted-out rubatos prevents climactic moments from achieving optimum dramatic fulfillment, as in the First and Fourth Ballade codas. On the other hand, the deliberation with which he enters into the Second Ballade’s agitated episodes enables the cascading right-hand patterns and ascending bass octaves to intermingle without spilling over into monochromatic banging. I am reminded of Krystian Zimerman’s similarly conceived yet arguably less episodic interpretations.

In contrast to the winged directness of the 88-year-old Earl Wild’s miraculous interpretations of the Impromptus, Richard-Hamelin allows himself plenty of rhetorical leeway, imbuing the filigree and rapid passagework with vocally informed phrasings and accentuations. To my ears, the pianist’s time stretching causes the A-flat Impromptu and Fantasie-Impromptu trio sections to ramble, while the massive insistence he brings to the F-sharp Impromptu’s march-like trio seems more appropriate for Brahms. Still, one cannot deny that Richard-Hamelin approaches this repertoire with thought, concentration, and purposefulness, and that he’s clearly an artist to watch.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Ballades: Perahia (Sony); Rubinstein (RCA), Impromptus: Wild (Ivory Classics)

  • Charles Richard-Hamelin (piano)

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