Koroliov’s Aristocratic Chopin

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 10

Evgeni Koroliov’s Chopin playing often recalls the patrician, refined manner on display in the best work of Ivan Moravec, Jorge Bolet, and Claudio Arrau. Instead of a headlong Fourth Scherzo à la the young Ashkenazy and Horowitz, we hear rounded melodies contoured against strong counterlines, plus fleeting dabs of color and pedal effects. These devices prevent the pianist’s protracted basic tempo for the Trio from falling apart.

Koroliov’s line-oriented rumination in the C-sharp minor Prelude foreshadows the music’s similarity to Brahms’ Capriccio Op. 76 No 1. We find similar details in the more straightforwardly unfolding Fourth Ballade, where the coda’s contrapuntal thickets emerge in both lucid and exciting fashion. A strong linear trajectory and unusual accentuation hold interest in the Barcarolle, although it can use more tenderness, more lilt, and a stronger rhythmic backbone in the central minor-key episode.

The two nocturnes are well played and thoughtfully nuanced, but without that elusive floating, singing quality that makes Nelson Freire’s recent versions so special. However, the Impromptus reveal more personal poetry from Koroliov, while the A minor Op. 34 No. 2 Waltz features a larger dynamic frame than usual and firmly projected part playing in the right hand.

As is too often the case with Tacet, the annotations (at least in their English translation) are prolix and poorly organized, where important historical and philosophical ephemera sidetrack musical information. But the sonics are first rate. Koroliov’s Chopin may or may not appeal to all tastes, yet his serious and probing artistry commands attention and respect.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Impromptus: Wild (Ivory Classics); Ballade No. 4: Arrau (Philips); Prelude Op. 45: Michelangeli (DG); Scherzo No. 4: Ashkenazy (Decca); Barcarolle Op. 60: Rubinstein (RCA)

    Ballade No. 4 in F minor Op. 52; Nocturnes Op. 27 No. 1 in C-sharp minor & No. 48 No. 2 in F-sharp minor; Barcarolle in F-sharp major Op. 60; Four Impromptus; Prélude in C-sharp minor Op. 45; Scherzo No. 4 in E major Op. 54; Waltz in A minor Op. 34 No. 2

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