David Leighton | Chopin Piano Masterpieces

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Chopin Piano Masterpieces

by David Leighton

David Leighton and I set out to create a recording that represents with complete directness Chopin’s vivid music from David’s unique, experienced, and insightful perspective.
Genre: Classical: Romantic Era
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Scherzo No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 31
12:13 album only
2. Étude in A-Flat Major, Op. 25, No. 1
2:38 $0.99
3. Scherzo No. 3 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 39
9:24 $0.99
4. Berceuse in D-Flat Major, Op. 57
6:03 $0.99
5. Barcarolle in F-Sharp Major, Op. 60
10:04 album only
6. Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52
12:41 album only
7. Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise in E-Flat Major, Op. 22
16:57 album only
8. Nocturne in D-Flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2
6:55 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Chopin Piano Masterpieces
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
David Leighton, piano

1. Scherzo II. in B-flat minor, Op. 31 (12:13)
2. Étude in A-flat major, Op. 25, No. 1 (2:28)
3. Scherzo III. in C-sharp minor, Op 39 (9:24)
4. Berceuse in D-flat major, Op. 57 (6:03)
5. Barcarolle in F-sharp major, Op. 60 (10:04)
6. Ballade in F minor, Op. 52, No. 4 (12:41)
7. Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise in E-flat major, Op. 22 (16:57)
8. Nocturne in D-Flat major, Op. 27, No. 2 (6:55)

Total timing: 76:54

Notes from the producer -
There must be a thousand Chopin piano recordings available today. Acknowledging that as a challenge from the start, David Leighton and I set out to create a recording that represents with complete directness Chopin’s vivid music from David’s unique, experienced, and insightful perspective.

The unmixed, single-point stereo pickup harvests from the instrument and the room a profoundly luminous and realistic timbre. There is no interference from the recording engineer with the music projected by the performer and the instrument, no augmentation or diminution of the performer’s dynamics or articulations. Any editing is absolutely minimal; in fact, tracks 4 and 8 are single, unedited takes.

It was a transcendent experience for me working with David and the marvelous music of Chopin on a recording project such as this.
- Scott Hawkinson, 11/05/2015

Notes from the pianist -
The piano used to record these selections was a Yamaha C2, a small grand, but one that offers a charming evocation of the type of piano Chopin would have known 200 years ago. With tuning and voicing by piano technician Christopher Hill the sound is clear with a brilliant upper range. We recorded at night in the sanctuary of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Princeton Junction, New Jersey and I was delighted with the variety of sounds this piano offered, and how those sounds grew as they reverberated throughout the vast, dark hall. To my amazement producer Scott Hawkinson was able to capture the spatial effect of the hall and the singing quality of the instrument in the recordings.

In his brief life Chopin gave us an enormous wealth of music in which he showed us how to let the piano sing. He worked out ways to coordinate the hands on the keys with the foot on the damper pedal, empowering a pianist to imitate a human voice, create the sound of an entire orchestra or simply show what a beautiful sound the piano can make. And that’s only half of the story. Even without his contributions to piano technique he still would have been an important composer for his explorations of harmony, counterpoint, musical form and drama in music. Dramatic conflict is an important feature of his style, and we know he was inspired by the works of Adam Mickiewicz, the great Polish poet who eloquently expressed the fierce desire of the Poles to be a free nation and their nostalgia for former times of glory.

Scherzo II, Op. 31 in B-flat minor is a storm of passion alternating with meditations that musically foreshadow Debussy. An impetuous surge on to final victory illustrates one of the main aspects of Chopin’s emotional style: although he suffered from tuberculosis and probably had very few “good days,” rather than give in to self-pity he expresses glory.

His range of mood is unlimited. The tranquil Étude, Op. 25, No. 1 in A-flat imitates the “Aeolian Harp,” an ancient stringed musical instrument played by passing winds. Rage collides with exaltation in the Scherzo III, Op. 39 in C-sharp minor. This title “Scherzo” is provocative. It is Italian for “caprice” or “joke” but Chopin uses it in the way that Beethoven did in his Ninth Symphony, “Scherzo” being the “joking” of thunder and lightning.

Gentle rocking of the cradle in the Berceuse, Op. 57 is elaborated into ecstatic rocking of the gondola in the Barcarolle, Op. 60 as noisy revels from shore dissolve into secret romantic confessions. Nostalgia is prominent in the Ballade No. 4, Op. 52 in F minor, but it is an uneasy reminiscence involving rebellion and protest. Chopin was the first composer to use the term “Ballad” and in doing so he brings to mind days of yore when heroes strode the earth. His native Poland, doomed to oppression by foreign powers, was his symbol of hopeful striving and he transformed the Polonaise from a simple walking dance into a declaration of revolutionary fervor. The Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise, Op. 22 could be Chopin’s musical autobiography, a history of his dreams. To dream was to triumph and this transcendent thought is celebrated in his Nocturne, Op. 27, No. 2 in D-flat.
- David Leighton, 11/09/2015
DAVID LEIGHTON grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota in a home filled with music. Both parents played the piano and his father gave him his first piano lessons. After graduation from the Juilliard School in New York City he joined the Metropolitan Opera as Assistant Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor. There he found his mentor in Alberta Masiello, a great pianist and legendary opera coach who had trained with Anna Schön-René, student of Clara Schumann.

His abilities as pianist earned him repeat appearances on Texaco’s Opera Quiz, intermission feature of the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts and he has performed as recital accompanist for a long list of opera stars from Robert Merrill to Luciano Pavarotti. He has conducted the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Dallas Opera, Nashville Opera, and Sarasota Opera. In Dessau, Germany, where he was conductor at the Anhaltisches Theater, he performed as piano soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto.
Our special thanks to R. Douglas Helvering
Produced by Scott R. Hawkinson
All selections DDD; recorded, edited, and mastered (96 kHz, 24 bit) by Scott R. Hawkinson
Photograph of David Leighton by Maureen Cuthbert (2010)
Recording ℗ 2015 Scott R. Hawkinson



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