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Jan Lisiecki - Chopin Complete Nocturnes is NDR: CD of the week

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NDR's Marcus Stäbler writes.....Jan Lisiecki was celebrated by the audience at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. A new double album has now been released in which the young pianist plays all of Chopin's nocturnes.

The music creeps softly into your ear. She hesitates for a moment, pauses and takes another swing before continuing. You need a particularly gentle touch and a feeling for the right timing to decipher the magic of these notes. With Jan Lisiecki you are in exactly the right hands. The young Canadian pianist with Polish roots demonstrates this impressively on the new album.

In his works with the title "Nocturnes" - in German about "Nachtstück" - Frédéric Chopin explores different colors of melancholy, combined with a great love for singing. Chopin was a fan of bel canto, he had a passion for opera as a child and created intimate scenes in his nocturnes.

Lisiecki is a master of nuances. He captures the clouded mood of the pieces very nicely and feels the subtle changes in color, for example when he lets a little bit of light into the dark in between. At the same time, it gives the melodies, usually in the right hand, enough space to unfold, to breathe, as a singer would.

By sensitively tracing the facets of the characters, the pianist succeeds in keeping his audience engaged over a longer period of time. Although the CD program with all the nocturnes covers a playing time of around two hours and rarely leaves its muted keynote. The music breaks out only occasionally.

Even in such moments, Lisiecki never loses control, he has every note, every little detail under control. As a result, his recording - taken during the lockdown - may seem a bit disconnected here and there. This is also the case with what is probably the most famous piece in the collection, the Nocturne op. 9 No. 2 in E flat major, which he plays unusually slowly.

The melody doesn't stand still, Lisiecki carries it at this speed and makes the piano sing. But the interpretation sounds a bit subtle and doesn't flow quite as naturally as with most of the other pieces. That remains one of the very few objections. Overall, the 26-year-old musician has succeeded in creating a very filigree and fascinating album in which he reveals his pianistic mastery and his very own signature.