Life According To Chopin - CD cover

Reviews for "Life According To Chopin" (2014)

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* Life According to Chopin, Courtesy Jeffrey Biegel, February 4, 2014 By Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States)

Jeffrey Biegel continues to be one of those pianists whose admirers watch the new releases of piano music carefully, leaping at the announcement of a new recording. He never fails to not only satisfy but also to surpass his other achievements. Biegel is a musician's musician, but then that adage tends to put some people off as if stating that means his ability to communicate to all listeners is not possible. Nothing could be further from the truth: Biegel's gifts include not only impeccable technical facility but also the ability to go to the core of whichever composer he is playing and share that inner beauty with his audience.

This new release LIFE ACCORDING TO CHOPIN is a case in point. This is Chopin that accepts the near insurmountable technical challenges of the artist's fingers and Biegel tosses off those hurdles as though they didn't exist. His performing of the fleeting passages is magically clear, assured, and unaffected. But where Jeffrey Biegel rises above other Chopin experts is his tenderness, his ability to bring those quiet melodies into focus so that they seem fresh and made of rarified air. He is completely at one with Chopin, offering these twelve pieces ranging from waltzes to nocturnes to mazurkas, ballads and scherzos to the immensely successful interpretations of the Fantasies Impromptu No. 4 in C-sharp minor and the Grand Polonaise Brillante in E-flat major.

After several listenings to this CD the automatic response is to reach to the shelf and re-visit his Bach, Mozart, Cui, Zwilich, his special survey of the Romantic composers - and yes, Leroy Anderson and the other lighter but equally satisfying recordings in his collection. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp

by Grady Harp – on – Febraury 4, 2014

* Every artist appears to love some composer more than others. American pianist, composer, arranger, teacher, and Steinway artist Jeffrey Biegel seems to love Chopin. In this album, he seems absolutely to adore Chopin. According to the album title, he must live Chopin. Not that he can't play other music just as well, as his many previous recordings like the most-recent Bach on a Steinway (2010), A Steinway Christmas Album (2011), and A Grand Romance (2013) attest. It's just that he looks as though he has a special affinity for Chopin and communicates an extra-special joy in communicating the man's tunes. Thus, it's a treat to find some of Mr. Biegel's favorite Chopin in the 2014 release Life According to Chopin.

Interestingly, according to a booklet note, "Until the age of three, Mr. Biegel could neither hear nor speak until corrected by surgery. The 'reverse Beethoven' phenomenon can explain Mr. Biegel's life in music, having heard only vibrations in his formative years." What's more, Mr. Biegel has filled his life with personal innovation. For instance, he "initiated the first live Internet recitals in New York and Amsterdam in 1997 and 1998, and, in 1999, assembled the largest consortium of orchestras (over 25) to celebrate the millennium with a new concerto composed for him."

So, yes, Mr. Biegel is an artist of immense talent, boundless creativity, and high repute. It's hard not to like his Chopin performances, even for someone like me who for years never thought he'd find anyone he'd like as well as the Chopin interpreters he grew up with: Rubinstein first, then Cliburn, Pollini, Ashkenazy, and others. Yet Biegel takes his place alongside them, doing Chopin proud.

Mr. Biegel begins the program with the Waltz in D-flat, Op. 64, No. 1, the "Minute" waltz that he says "every young pianist MUST play." Well, he's not a young pianist anymore, but I'm glad he played it. Even though you may have heard it a hundred times, Biegel makes it come alive, fresh and new, with his lilting manner and gentle phrasing. With him itÕs not just another lickety-split, look at how masterly a pianist I am; itÕs a surprisingly amiable, lyrical piece that soars. Like all of Biegel's Chopin, it shows us an artist at the service of a composer's music rather than an artist using a composer's music merely to show off his virtuosity.

And so it goes through a dozen selections and over seventy minutes of music. Here, I couldn't help pick favorites among Biegel's favorites. The Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2, for example, is dazzling in both its technical showmanship and its graceful, rhapsodic beauty. The Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60 ebbs and flows wonderfully from one tonal region to another. The Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2 is as light, sheer, and gossamer as any reading you'll find as Biegel plays it in this transcription by Theodor Leschitezky. I could go on, and as you can guess, I probably will. I love every track on this disc. Biegel produces music with passion and soul, never distorting the notes but adding an intimate touch of joy and expressiveness to them. One listen to the Andante Spianato, Op. 22 gives you an idea of what I mean; it conveys real inspiration and feeling in every phrase. It's delightful in its smooth, fluent motion and ever-changing line. Then, the familiar Fantasie-Impromptu No. 4 in C-sharp minor, Op. 66 ("I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" was the pop-song treatment) is never flashy but glides along rhythmically, effortlessly, stylishly, producing an uncanny sensation of improvisation with precision.

If you like Mr. Biegel's piano playing, if you like Chopin, heck, if you just like music, you cannot go wrong with this album. And it helps that it sounds so good.

Recorded at Patrych Sound Studios, New York, in 2013 by producer Joe Patrych, BiegelÕs Chopin album sounds as good as anything he's done. Like most good piano recordings, this one sounds rich, warm, resonant, and very, very clean, with virtually no distortion, brightness, hardness, edginess, dryness, or anything else to distract one from the music. It's quite realistic, with its clear, solid transient impact and natural, lifelike acoustic setting.

John J. Puccio
February 4,2014

by John J. Puccio – Classical Candor – February 4, 2014

* "It takes some courage, I think, to record music that has long resonated in the catalog with thousands of different versions, and to come up with something genuine, thought out, and not forced, and to bring it off with seriousness of purpose and the best of intentions. That's true of a new Chopin release by Jeffrey Biegel." Check out my review here on

"Biegel sustains attention in the rubato-laden E-flat theme by bringing out the left-hand accompaniment as a counterline. Like Claudio Arrau, Biegel takes his time over the scherzando passage at measure 138 so that the inner melodies can truly take shape. [...]

of Chopin's Ballade in g minor: "Biegel sustains attention in the rubato-laden E-flat theme by bringing out the left-hand accompaniment as a counter-line. Like Claudio Arrau, Biegel takes his time over the scherzando passage at measure 138 so that the inner melodies can truly take shape"

of Chopin's Mazurka in A-flat Major: "Biegel plays it beautifully, and he surprises you with his whimsical detached phrasing of the main theme toward the conclusionÐor, in the immortal words of Vladimir de Pachmann, 'eh, staccato à la Paganini!'"

"Biegel's Chopin is never generic or cut and dried, and often sheds fresh perspectives on pieces that we think we can strum through in our sleep."

"At first I found his uncommonly literal and textually meticulous phrasing of the C-sharp minor WaltzÕs opening section a little stiff and self-aware. Yet after the Trio, Biegel reiterates the same music with lyrical inflection. BiegelÕs legato articulation and textural diversity in the Barcarolle especially impress when you consider how sparely he deploys the sustain pedal in the opening section. The D-flat Nocturne boasts gorgeous tracery and delicately supple double notes, while the A minor Mazurka's decorative right-hand writing effortlessly floats over the barlines."

Biegel sustains attention in the rubato-laden E-flat theme by bringing out the left-hand accompaniment as a counterline. Like Claudio Arrau, Biegel takes his time over the scherzando passage at measure 138 so that the inner melodies can truly take shape.

from Jed Distler post to Facebook and review at – Classics Today – March 2014