CHOPIN Piano Sonatas Nos 2 & 3 (Eugen Indjic)
The prospect of another recording of Chopin’s two most popular piano sonatas does not necessarily fill one with ‘a running stream of sparkling joy’. One website lists 351 recordings of the ‘Funeral March’ Sonata currently available and 308 of the B minor. Who will opt for this recording by a pianist now in his early seventies who has had a respectable but far from high-profile career?
Well, in answer to that question, quite a few, I hope. From the opening measures of the Second Sonata you know you are listening to a master pianist, drawn into the burnished, silky-smooth tone Eugen Indjic produces, noting with pleasure his scrupulous phrasing of the first subject (to wit a slight accent on the first quaver but, when it returns some 26 bars later, transferred to the second quaver as marked). Here is mature Chopin-playing, no young blood stamping his or her personality on the score with eccentric or idiosyncratic musical decisions that have you diving for the score. One quickly settles back, knowing this account of the sonata will be a joy to hear – and so it proves, the only controversial point being the first-subject repeat which Indjic takes from the doppio movimento bar; he also eschews the first-movement repeat in the B minor Sonata (both of which options I personally favour).
It is rare to hear either sonata played with such consistently transparent part-playing in both hands, such that it allows us to hear every note and contrapuntal figure that Chopin took so much trouble to notate but which are frequently overlooked, especially in faster passages such as the finale of the ‘Funeral’ Sonata. Yes, there have been more superficially exciting accounts of this and the finale of the B minor Sonata but Indjic plays these with an expressive power that generates its own thrill.
Between the two sonatas comes a performance of the great C minor Nocturne which will live in the memory. As will now be clear, I was unexpectedly bowled over by this disc. But then I remembered that it was Indjic’s recording of Chopin mazurkas that was used by the late William Barrington-Coupe to add to the faked discography of his wife Joyce Hatto, providing, if somewhat ironically, confirmation of Eugen Indjic’s credentials as a very fine Chopin player.