Alberto Reyes plays Chopin (CD)
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Alberto Reyes plays Chopin (CD)

Code: 1271-2

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A recital of masterworks of Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) featuring the Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35; Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58; Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52; Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49, and the Barcarolle in F-sharp major, Op. 60.
[2009, Stereo, 2-CD, 88 minutes]

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Alberto Reyes made his recital debut as an eight-year-old in 1956. In 1966, he came to the US on a grant to study at the Indiana University School of Music. Reyes has toured to great acclaim in the U.S. and Canada, the Soviet Union, South America, and Russia. His playing reflects the influence of two major piano schools of the early twentieth century. In Uruguay, his teacher was Sarah Bourdillon, who throughout the 1930s studied at Alfred Cortot’s Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. In Bloomington, his mentor was the American pianist Sidney Foster who, along with Jorge Bolet, Shura Cherkassky and Abbey Simon, studied with David Saperton at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, which was then under the aegis of legendary pianist Josef Hofmann. In the words of the pianist, this recording affords him “the unique opportunity to engage in a double dialogue with the works themselves and with every other artist and commentator who have played or written about them.”

Click here to watch Alberto Reyes play the first movement of Chopin's Sonata in B minor, Op 58 taped during the recording sessions for this CD set.

From International Record Review, February 2010:

"Alberto Reyes introduces his two-disc set of Chopin masterpieces with a booklet essay, 'Why another Chopin recording?'. In it, he alludes to a series of pianists – ranging from Gould, Steuermann, Hofmann, Moiseiwitsch, Cortot, Rosen and Michelangeli, to Chopin himself – who could scarcely be more disparate. If this diverse line-up weren’t enough to alert the listener that a musical experience of some sophistication is in store, glancing references to Delacroix, Theodor Adorno, Freud and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster should remove any doubts. Reyes scrupulously points out his few departures from Chopin’s text – some bass doublings here, some broken chords there – lest anyone be shocked. Quite frankly, Reyes is all too modest in this charming, keenly intelligent essay. The robust beauties of his remarkably original interpretations need no justification.

"A word about Reyes himself may be appropriate here, since his career trajectory has been nothing if not unconventional. Born 62 years ago last month in Montevideo, he studied in his native Uruguay with the Cortot pupil Sarah Bourdillon. His advanced studies were at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, under Sydney Foster. By the early 1970s he had garnered several prizes on the international competition circuit and made his New York and Moscow recital débuts. In 1976 Reyes made a volte-face, pulling back from concertizing and settling in New York to work as a simultaneous translator for the Security Council and General Assembly at the United Nations. Fortunately for the rest of us, during that demanding career, Reyes continued to play. In 1988, the New York Times accorded one of his rare concerts the closest thing to a rave review that any pianist is likely to receive in that piano- weary town. Since his retirement from the UN in 2007, Reyes seems again susceptible to the lures of the stage; and, I might add, not a moment too soon.

"Stylistically speaking, there’s a great deal in Reyes’s playing that harks back to the ‘grand manner’. His sound is unapologetically round and luxurious and, once launched, his beautiful cantabile soars in an infallible arc. Tempos tend toward the spacious and sections are vividly contrasted. The overarching sweep of a work’s formal structure is emphasized above focus on detail. Asynchronicity of the hands and broken chords occasionally serve to clarify polyphony or heighten expressive nuance but always within the realm of good taste. Above all, in each work there is an incontestable point of view, an expressive intent devoid of any ambiguity, that lends these disarmingly direct readings their singular authority. Reyes being so completely who he is, comparisons are difficult. Warmer than Arrau, more personal than Freire, less facile than the urbane Novaes, Reyes’s sweep is somehow reminiscent of Rubinstein, that last great master of the ‘grand manner’, who may be heard and seen in some of the same repertoire on a DVD of his 1964 Moscow Conservatory concert.

"Listening to a Chopin scherzo, one often has the impression of a horse bolting from the gates; all expressive content is reserved for the trio, which seems a distraction before the start of the next race. Far from this common, fleet ‘Art of Finger Dexterity’ approach, into which a soulful nocturne has been plopped by accident, in the scherzos in both sonatas Reyes gives rhetorical elegance its full due. Gesture and contour are never sacrificed to speed and when the pulse slows, the trio unfolds with intensified eloquence. Refreshingly, each scherzo emerges as a seamless, integrated whole. Speaking of speed, it is hard to imagine a less note-y Presto finale of the B flat minor Sonata than this. It is as though an apparition, little more than a contour, scarcely perceptible, ephemeral, were racing toward the terrifying cataclysm of the final cadence, the Furies in hot pursuit. At the opposite end of the kinesthetic spectrum is the Olympian calm of the B minor Sonata’s Largo. Here, rhythmic pulse and harmonic scaffolding are perfectly subordinated, holding aloft a spinning cantilena that grows more heart-rending with each elaboration. The Barcarolle, Fantasy and the F minor Ballade all share with the sonatas this same intensely personal, deeply felt music-making and élan vital.

"Though I’ve known a number of extremely competent musicians who were either hopelessly neurotic or colossal bores, I think it’s true nevertheless that the musical persona is inseparable from the human being. With regard to Reyes, one wonders if his ‘second career’ – during which he witnessed close- hand global reactions to two Gulf Wars, the disintegration of the Balkans and demise of Apartheid, blood- drenched agonies in the Middle East, the aftermath of Pinochet in Chile, and 9/11 – has not somehow informed, tempered, enriched or, perhaps, even ennobled his piano playing. Whatever the aetiology of his artistry, Reyes’s return to a public career can only be met with open arms."
- Patrick Rucker

"His performances of the two mature sonatas, fourth ballade, Barcarolle and Fantasy are deeply personal, imaginative, straight from the heart, and reminiscent of the grand manner of a bygone era" - Patrick Rucker, Fanfare

"...playing of unusual distinction. Alberto Reyes does not seek to dazzle with his Chopin, instead treating the ears to rich, deliberate and supremely lyrical playing" - Peter Burwasser, Fanfare