The Orpheus label was a Musical Heritage Society subsidiary that flourished in the 1960s and 1970s, resulting in hundreds of releases stemming from both licensed material and new recordings. Musical Concepts has now launched a series of digital download releases from the Orpheus masters, including this most impressive Chopin recital from Ruth Slenczynska, first issued on LP in 1975.
The pianist’s Op. 10 Etudes prove firmer and more incisive than in her recently reissued 1956 American Decca versions. Her clarity and definition throughout the difficult right-hand parts in numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8 evoke Pollini’s diamond-like solidity, yet without ignoring important left-hand details, such as No. 1’s cantus firmus bass lines or the “Black Key” No. 5’s counter melodies. No. 4 is superior to its 1956 predecessor for its leanness, textural contrasts, and drive.
Her 1956 No. 9 was controversially introspective, whereas the remake is still measured, yet more sufficiently agitato. By contrast, the lithe and supple 1956 No. 10 gives way to a heavier and less attractive detaché treatment. At one point during the steadily lilting Berceuse, Slenczynska relaxes the tempo, allowing the trills more room to maneuver–an unorthodox gesture, yet it totally works. I’m not sold on the pianist’s forthright and slightly mechanical D-flat Nouvelle Etude, but her legato articulation over the staccato accompaniment is nothing less than a master class, as are her crisply exuberant Ecossaises.
Digital assets include the original cover art and liner notes as PDF files, plus audio download options in FLAC, WAV, AIFF, MP3, and Apple Lossless formats. Let’s hope Musical Concepts will follow up with Slenczynska’s equally excellent Orpheus companion LP featuring Chopin’s Op. 25 Etudes, Barcarolle, and Tarantella.