Review: Stefania Passamonte “Chopin Heroic”

Stefania Passamonte “Chopin Heroic”

20 Oct, 2011 Matt Warnock

Italian born pianist Stefania Passamonte returns with another world-class album full of emotional and technically brilliant interpretations of some of the most beautiful and engaging works by Romantic composer Frédćric Chopin.  Divided into two types of works, Scherzos and Polonaises (with a Walt and Andante included for good measure), the album is a showcase for both the talented composer’s output and the mature interpretation by one of the world’s brightest up and coming pianists.  As was the case with her album Beethoven’s Dramatic Sonatas, Passamonte’s decision to focus this recording on the works of one composer not only provides an added level of cohesiveness to the project, but also allows the listener a deeper view of the pianist’s love of Chopin’s music, and the results are absolutely first rate in every respect.

Passamonte leaps out of the gates with her performance of Scherzo No. 1, which is both a technically challenging and emotionally filled work that takes a pianist of the highest caliber to properly interpret.  The rapid-fire melodies that define the first and last sections of the piece are performed cleanly and with the maximum amount of personality injected into each phrase, which is not an easy accomplishment when the notes are flying by as fast as they are.  One of the things that makes this piece, and a lot of Passamonte’s works, so enjoyable is her control of the time.  Knowing just when to slow down and speed up to fully engage the listener’s attention, the pianist has a sixth sense when it comes to moving the time around and pulling the utmost intensity out of each and every phrase, in this piece as well as all of the others on this enchanting record.

Though most of these works will only be known to classical music fans, Passamonte has included her interpretation of one of Chopin’s most recognizable pieces, “Polonaise Heroic.”  Performing such a recognizable work is always a tough choice for any classical musician to make, as immediately audiences will compare their version to the countless others they have heard, both in concert and on recordings.  While some versions of famous pieces fail to live up to their predecessors, Passamonte’s execution of this classic work is definitely worthy next to the most famous recorded versions of the Heroic.  Here crystal clear execution of each and every phrase only acts to bring out the intricate melodic and harmonic content in a way that allows the listener a closer glimpse of Chopin’s genius, while providing for a powerful performance at the same time.

Though she certainly has the technical virtuosity to perform difficult and flashy pieces all day long, Passamonte also shines a light on her more dramatic and slower side with her performance of Chopin’s “Waltz in C Sharp Minor.”  Here, there are fast runs that are executed with perfection, but it is the slower, more melodic moments that jump out and stick in the listener’s ear.  There are many pianists that possess the skill to perform fast and difficult works, but there are fewer that can also bring to life a slow, endearing melody in the way that Passamonte does on this work.  It is this duality that makes her standout and makes this album worthy of entering the library of any and all classical music fans.

Passamonte is quickly making a name for herself as a pianist to watch on the international classical music scene. With here majestic interpretation of Beethoven, and now Chopin, here audiences are left wanting more and wondering where will this talented performer take them next as her bright musical future continues to unfold on recordings and in concert halls worldwide.

Review by Matthew Warnock
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)