Rafael Orozco’s Chopin

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 7

2021 marks the 25th anniversary of Rafael Orozco’s untimely death from AIDS at age 50, as well as what would have been his 75th birthday year. The pianist came to international attention at 20 when he won the 1966 Leeds Competition, and soon after recorded Chopin’s Preludes for EMI, which the label released in the US on a Seraphim LP. Its first CD release reinforces my positive memories about these clear and direct performances.

Warner’s excellent digital remastering cannot disguise the original dry sonics, nor transform the young Orozco into a more poetic and colorful pianist. Yet he leaves few details unaccounted for, from the G major Prelude’s bracingly articulated left-hand runs and the F-sharp minor’s impeccably controlled textural thickets, to a truly “semplice” A major and the B-flat major’s perfectly proportioned rubato. Although the C-sharp minor Op. 45 Prelude moves along briskly, Orozco’s masterful pedaling gives the impression of spaciousness.

But I’ve never warmed to this pianist’s square and mechanical interpretations of the Etudes, however technically proficient they are. Furthermore, Orozco’s articulation ranges from cavalier (the F major Op. 25 No. 3’s 32nd notes) to oddly exaggerated (the E minor Op. 25 No. 5’s emphatic dotted eighth notes that totally contradict Chopin’s “scherzando” intention). Still, if Orozco’s streamlined aesthetic appeals, you’ll find a more seasoned counterpart in John Browning’s 1960s RCA recording. Recommended for the Preludes.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Preludes Op. 28: Moravec (Supraphon); Argerich (DG), Prelude Op. 45: Michelangeli (DG), Etudes: Zayas (Music and Arts)

  • CHOPIN, FRÉDÉRIC:
    Preludes Op. 28; Prelude in C-sharp minor Op. 45; Prelude in A-flat Op. Posth.; Etudes Op. 10 & 25
  • Rafael Orozco (piano)

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