The complete Ballades and Scherzi, works that are among the most sublime achievements of Chopin’s compositional genius, works hardly ever offered as complete sets.
Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23
Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op. 38
Ballade No. 3 in A major, Op. 47
Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52
Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20
Scherzo No. 2 in Bb minor, Op. 31
Scherzo No. 3 in C# minor, Op. 39
Scherzo No. 4 in E major, Op. 54
‘There are only a few pianists who for example can play in live concert the intricate works based on Chopin written by the Polish composer and pianist Leopold Godowsky. The Italian Carlo Grante… belongs to this [group] of fine-motor super-virtuosos.
The sound… was the really the [aspect] of Grante’s playing that was most noteworthy. Such fullness and warmth, that nevertheless remains full of movement and is not overly rich, such a soft and gradation-rich forte in [playing] Chopin, [a playing that is] without any hardnesses or peaks, but full of power – such [playing has] rarely been heard since Nikita Magaloff.
Grante played the 4 Ballades and the 4 Scherzi with a beautiful preference for [creating] shrouded atmospheres of haze and fog and for intimate dialogues in the middle registers.
Grante liked [his Chopin] rather pensive and with a constant shimmer of mother of pearl. This too was beautiful! And rather noble.’
Jan Brachmann, Berliner Zeitung – 16 January 2015
The great pianist Alfred Cortot said of the Chopin Etudes that “they are as inaccessible to the technician without poetry as they are to the poet without technique.” The same could apply equally to all of Chopin’s works. Carlo Grante possesses both technique and poetry in formidable degrees. His daunting program consisted of two giant blocks of the repertoire, the four Ballades and the four Scherzi of Chopin. These works are so well-known that their themes have become part of the musical subconscious, so to speak. They are also routinely massacred by well-meaning pianists, both professional and amateur.
From the opening stark low C of the first Ballade, the audience sensed it was in the presence of total mastery and a personal vision for each phrase and each work as a whole. Color variety was abundant, reflecting the deep and dramatic emotional shifts that frequently turn from brooding to exultant in these lyrical narratives. At times, a daring and personal sense of rubato was applied, but always with a structural view, never distorting the total architecture. He didn’t play these works “the way you’ve always heard them,” thank goodness. After all, if you can’t be individual in works from the Romantic period, you are in the wrong business.
There are two more evening planned by Mr. Grante in his series “Masters of High Romanticism,” Schumann sonatas, and Brahms variations. I advise lovers of the piano to go.
Scherzo No. 1 in b minor, Op. 20
Scherzo No. 2 in b-flat minor, Op. 31
Scherzo No. 3 in c-sharp minor, Op. 39
Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54
Ballade No. 1 in g-minor, Op. 23
Ballade No. 2 in F Major, Op. 38
Ballade No. 3 in a-flat Major, Op. 47
Ballade No. 4 Op. 52 Live radio broadcast
HH Promotions London Ltd and Ella Studio Wien are producing a DVD of Maestro Grante performing Chopin’s Ballades and Scherzi live in the Renzo Piano Auditorium, L’Aquila, Italy, in November 2013.