Monday, November 1, 2010

Alexander Brailowsky plays Chopin's Preludes op. 28

   One of the best interpreters of Chopin’s works was Alexander Brailowsky (1896-1976). He was born in Kiev in a family of a professional pianist who gave him first lessons. As 15-years-old he finished Kiev Conservatory with gold medal and continued his studies in classes of Theodore Leschetizky in Vienna, Ferruccio Busoni in Zürich and Francis Planté in Paris. He specialized in performing Chopin’s music and shortly he became famous as virtuoso and a great interpreter.
   Brailowsky has programmed Chopin’s 160 pieces for performance in cycle of six public gigs. For the first time in history he played the complete cycle of Chopin’s works in 1924. Then he had played further 30 events of this kind in various locations, Paris, Brussels, Zurich, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Montevideo. After his outstanding debut in Aeolian Hall in New York in 1924 he became frequent guest in United States of America. He played the cycle of Chopin’s complete works also during 1936 coast-to-coast tour. After years he repeated this event in New York, Brussels and Paris in 1960 for 150 anniversary of Chopin birth. In 1926 he settled in Paris and became naturalized citizen in France, but later he stayed in US where he was living in New York and collecting clocks.

Alexander Brailowsky - Chopin - Preludes

   Taalking about playing Chopin’s music, Brailowsky once said, the pianist technique should be “fluent, fluid, delicate, airy, and capable of great variety of color”. This attitude is clear the base for his interpretations of 24 Preludes op.28. He reads Chopin’s intentions in virtuoso manner, more to amaze and move than affect or incline to fantasize. He captures the cycle as a whole, splitting it into eight mini-cycles. First three cycles contain four preludes each. Two preludes go in pair (Nos. 13 and 14) and one (No. 15) stands alone. And then comes sequence of three cycles three preludes each which are completing the opus. Maybe it is only the side-effect of organizing the material on the record plate into four easy to reach parts on each side, but this split has its musical sense.
   This is very fortunately, the timeless art of Alexander Brailowsky can be judged nowadays thanks to the series of recordings he made for RCA-Victor in ‘30s. And recordings of Preludes after over 70 years still sound fresh and bright. Besides this significant achievement of 24 Preludes the recorded collection of Brailowsky’s Chopiniana includes also The Complete Mazurkas in two volumes, The Complete Etudes, Waltzes, Nocturnes in two volumes, Polonaises, Concerto No. 1 and A Chopin Recital. On some other records one can also hear him playing Liszt’s 15 Hungarian Rhapsodies and Rachmaninoff’s Piano concerto No.2, but even short look onto his discography shows the main subject of his artistic activity was the interpretation of Chopin’s works.

Postscriptum: Tittle of the edition is misleading. This is not the complete collection of the Preludes written by Chopin. It should be entitled just Preludes op.28. Because there are two more preludes he wrote – first one composed earlier in 1834 – Prélude a mon ami Pierre Wolff, and last one Prelude op. 45 from 1841.

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