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Jed Distler, July 2011

In 1997 Philips reissued Nikita Magaloff’s 1974–78 complete Chopin piano works cycle as a budget-priced, space-saving boxed set that did not last in the catalog very long. It now reappears courtesy of Newton Classics’ ongoing reissues of out-of-print items from Universal Classics’ back catalog.

Technically, Magaloff always plays well, although the recordings are not consistently inspired. On one hand, for example, the obscure student C minor sonata exudes tremendous panache and light-fingered bravura while the B minor sonata is understated but elegantly shaped. By contrast, clunky phrasing and matter-of-fact musicality add up to a less than memorable B-flat minor sonata.

Certain Op. 28 Preludes emerge in relatively pedantic light (Nos. 2, 17, & 20), yet Magaloff finds poetic allure elsewhere (Nos. 3, 10, 12, & 19). Considering Magaloff’s tellingly-contoured bass lines that generate an extra kick in the Polonaises, his left hand accompaniments in the Waltzes come off sounding casual and underplayed, and the Etudes are solid but generally cautious.

However, the sensitively sculpted yet strongly projected Nocturnes hold their own with the catalog’s best. So do the less individually distinctive Ballades and Scherzos, while the Mazurkas boast enough fetching ornaments and subtle harmonic underpinnings to satisfy the pickiest Chopin maven. Magaloff’s freshly conceived, digitally sparkling way with the Rondos truly enlivens these obscure works, and the same goes for the two duo works abetted by Michel Dalberto. Philips’ engineering ranges from up close and clangy (the B-flat minor sonata) to warm and spacious (the Nocturnes). Certainly Magaloff’s best Chopin efforts are worth a place in any extensive piano collection.

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11:57:14 AM, 19 April 2015
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