CHOPIN Complete Nocturnes (Rodrigues)
On the plus side, pianist Eliane Rodrigues possesses a colourful and focused sonority, abetted by the superb acoustic ambience of the Fazioli Concert Hall in Sacile, Italy, not to mention what appears to be a well-regulated Fazioli grand piano (model number F278, for those who care about such things). And she has a great left hand. But her rhythmically unfocused Chopin-playing wanders all over the place. Granted, a certain amount of freedom is essential in the Nocturnes, yet when it comes to meting out rubato, Rodrigues rarely gets the dosages and proportions right.
Her fussing over the basic pulse of the opening section of Op 27 No 1 undermines its dark, undulating character, with tempo adjustments at the major-key climax that totally ignore Chopin’s intended dramatic build. The pianist’s overly languid Op 27 No 2 renders this gorgeous nocturne dead on arrival. Op 32 No 2’s waltzing middle section droops rather than soars, while Op 37 No 2 takes too much time settling into a (sort of) basic tempo. At first Rodrigues steers Op 48 No 1 on a steady course, yet the tumultuous octaves tinkle when they ought to explode.
I’m intrigued by the pianist’s brisk tempo and détaché left-hand accompaniment at the outset of Op 55 No 1 but Op 55 No 2’s stop-and-go phrasing bends Chopin’s elaborate contrapuntal edifice out of shape. To be fair, Rodrigues captures the strangeness of Op 15 No 3’s conclusion by way of subtle pedal effects and harmonic underpinnings. While the G minor and F minor Ballades abound in ear-catching voicings and local details, there’s little of the dynamic scaling, dramatic impetus and structural unity distinguishing similarly ‘free-spirited’ Ballades from Krystian Zimerman and Ivan Moravec.
There’s no doubting Rodrigues’s sensitive core and her genuine affection for the Nocturnes but her interpretations ultimately lack what the composer/critic Virgil Thomson called ‘the discipline of spontaneity’.