GODOWSKY Studies on Chopin's Op 25 (Emanuele Delucchi)
With this release, the young Italian (b1987) becomes only the fourth pianist to have recorded all of Godowsky’s Studies on Chopin’s Études. A year ago he joined Francesco Libetta and Carlo Grante as the only pianists in history to have played them all in concert. Why are these two events significant? Because, whatever one thinks of them musically (and some people loathe them), the Chopin-Godowsky Studies remain the ne plus ultra of polyphonic writing for the keyboard – and it takes an exceptional pianist of considerable skill (as well as mental and physical stamina) to negotiate the relentless technical and musical demands that Godowsky makes. Personally – and I write as Godowsky’s biographer – I am happy to hear just a handful at a time, no matter who the pianist might be; I think that is the best way to appreciate the teeming detail and the occasional overload of contrapuntal ingenuity.
Having said that, it has been a real pleasure to listen to the second part of the cycle in the hands of this brilliant talent (I welcomed Vol 1, devoted to the Studies on Op 10, in the Awards issue 2017). Delucchi, as on his previous two Godowsky recordings, has opted for a mellow-toned 1906 Steinway Model D which lends warm colours and a period flavour to proceedings (1906, after all, was in the decade that Godowsky established himself as one of the greatest pianists of his generation).
This second volume begins with the four studies derived from Chopin’s Trois Nouvelles études (Nos 44, 45, 45a and 46) and No 48, the final study in Godowsky’s numbering, which combines Op 10 No 11 with Op 25 No 3, a performance that challenges even Marc-André Hamelin (his benchmark set on Hyperion, 5/00). Not all of Delucchi’s performances quite reach that exalted height: Hamelin’s greater ease and good humour (yes!) in No 34, for example (Op 25 No 5 turned into a mazurka), and the witty polonaise treatment of Op 25 No 4 being cases in point. Elsewhere, the Italian more than holds his own: try No 27 (the waltz version of Op 25 No 2) and the arrangement for left hand alone of Op 25 No 9. Realistically recorded, good booklet, and all in all a fine addition to the increasingly valuable Piano Classics catalogue.