Do a tabula rasa for the first time. Jan Lisiecki angrily sweeps every Chopin bliss off the table. The opening etude of op. 10 as a protest note corresponds to the furious “revolutionary etude” at the end of the evening: With the corner movements of his recital in the Berlin Chamber Music Hall, the Canadian pianist with Polish roots makes it unmistakably clear what is still important to him in his compatriot.

Far from salon music, since his first Chopin recording with Deutsche Grammophon in 2013, Lisiecki has understood Fréderic Chopin as a master of character pieces. He now mixes his twelve etudes from op. 10 with eleven nocturnes and combines them into a cycle, a journey of the soul full of abysses and moments of light, with open, questioning endings.

The 27-year-old, who, because of his subtle, reserved manner, is unjustly a little behind the pianist triumvirate of young stars alongside the profound Daniil Trifonov and the expressive Igor Levit, develops the seismographic shocks with stupendous touch technique from the musical text of the short pieces . Carves out melodies from blocks of chords, casts heavy shadows over reverie, dabs webs of arpeggios. He increases the tempo of the A minor and F major etudes from Op. 10 to the grotesque and briefly brings Chopin close to Erik Satie.

The inner tension, which is also reflected in his body tension – it often lifts him up from the piano chair – is even more convincing in the etudes than in the nocturnes.

Lisiecki’s agogic, the rubati, his sophisticated pedal technique and his penchant for the middle voices – at the end of the Nocturnes op 48 No. 1 he emphasizes the minor third – remain free of mannerism. Pathos and poses are alien to him, his playing maintains a natural pulse.

A breathing Chopin, expansion and compression follow a compelling inner logic. Likewise the changes in mood, when a hard attack unexpectedly pulverizes, when the emotional core of the E major Etude from Op. 10 is revealed by an explosion, or the theme of the equally popular B-flat minor Nocturne, Op. 9 No. 1 at the end in reached the cosmic spheres.

As so often, Jan Lisiecki gives the euphoric audience an encore, nothing more: a simple, painful nocturne by the Polish composer Jan Paderewski.


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