Chopin: Polonaises Nos. 1-6; Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Chopin: Polonaises Nos. 1-6; Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Lazar Berman
Catalogue No.

Lazar Berman, a bear of a man whom The Times of London called ‘one of the last unabashed exponents of the Romantic tradition of Russian pianism’, was known for the power of his playing and for his prodigious technique but was also capable of great delicacy at the keyboard. The core of his repertoire was the great Romantic and post-Romantic works, from Beethoven to Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Emil Gilels referred to him as a ‘phenomenon of the musical world’. Eloquence presents his complete Deutsche Grammophon recordings over five titles.

Lazar Berman did not like competitions. In the 1956 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, his first trip to the West, he was placed only fifth. An experience in a Chopin competition left a bitter taste; as a result, he subsequently refused to play Chopin, explaining that ‘Of course I used to play him but many years ago I entered for a Chopin competition in Warsaw and I did not qualify. It was a tremendous blow to my pride and I vowed that I would never play him again.’ Nevertheless, in 1979, Berman was persuaded to set down this version of Chopin’s mature Polonaises, leaving us feeling much the poorer for the lack of other recordings from him of this composer. Mussorgsky’s suite, ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, was perhaps his most fully realised masterpiece. Berman’s view of the work is detailed, clearly sculpted, energising but never over-the top.


Polonaise No. 1 in C sharp minor, Op. 26 No. 1
Polonaise No. 2 in E flat minor, Op. 26 No. 2
Polonaise No. 3 in A major, Op. 40 No. 1 ‘Military’
Polonaise No. 4 in C minor, Op. 40 No. 2
Polonaise No. 5 in F sharp minor, Op. 44
Polonaise No. 6 in A flat major, Op. 53 ‘Heroic’

Pictures at an Exhibition

Lazar Berman, piano

Recording information

Executive Producer: Werner Mayer
Recording Producer: Werner Mayer
Balance Engineers: Klaus Scheibe (Chopin); Günter Hermanns, Hans-Peter Schweigmann (Mussorgsky)
Editors: Jobst Eberhardt, Reinhild Schmidt (Chopin)
Recording Location: Alter Herkulessaal, Munich, Germany, April 1978 (Mussorgsky), February 1979 (Chopin)


‘astonishing dynamic range of the performances … bold rhythmic demarcation of thematic sections and delineation of figures, and generally pyromaniacal heroics … if you like your vodka straight and your Chopin flambé, this disc is your man’ (Chopin) Fanfare

‘Berman has a warm, romantic heart and can produce big, full tone without any hard edge. Moreover, he appreciates that these pieces are not just dances but patriotic tone-poems embodying what the late Arthur Hedley once described as pride in the past’ (Chopin) Gramophone

‘distinguished new recording … the pianism is breathtaking … DG’s recording accords with Berman’s acuity and refined shadings’ (Mussorgsky) Gramophone