Artur Pizarro - Chopin Sonatas - Gramophone

Artur Pizarro' triumphant round of the competition circuit was followed by a fallow period. And so it is doubly gratifying to find him back in the studios, this time in mainstream programmes rather than in byways of the repertoire. Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin are soon to be followed by a complete Ravel cycle. Here he chooses Chopin's Variations for his scintillating curtain-raiser before moving on to three of the greatest masterpieces. But if Rubistein found the spine in Chopin (to quote Daniel Barenboim), Pizarro does the opposite so that the effect, accentuated by his Bluthner's tubby bass and watery treble, is oddly opaque and unfocused. Time and again - and particularly in the Sonatas - I longed for the ring, fullness and range of a grander instrument. What should sound searing and intense from Pizarro too often sounds weak, many of Chopin's most heroic pages emerging veiled in a cloud of introspection. The trio from the Second Sonata's Funeral March comes previously close to a halt and, more generally, it is odd to hear a pianist still in his thirties so lacking in joie de vivre. True, he has a surprise up his sleeve when he unleashes a storm of virtuosity in the Third Sonata's Finale. But such brilliance comes too late to rescue a personal but strangely unconvincing recital.

01 June 2006