End of Chopin year – free classical download #5

End of Chopin year – free classical download #5


norman lebrecht

December 24, 2010

The bicentenary of Chopin’s birth changed none of my perspectives. There have been some interesting recordings, not least by the miraculously restored Janina Fialkowska, and some teeth-gritting horrors from various former winners of the Chopin competition, not to mention some ear-tweaking interpretations on creaky pianos of the composer’s time. None prompted me to regard Chopin from a fresh aspect.

There were, however, hidden gems and whispered secrets, one of which was Leon McCawley’s account of the Fantaisie Impromptu on the Somm label, which is today’s exclusive free download on Slipped Disc. Click here: 

A runner up in the Leeds piano competition, McCawley is a young British pianist with exceptional tone control; he teaches at the Royal College of Music in London.
Chopin - Piano Works
Somm is a one-woman boutique label run by record industry veteran Sika Oke, who chooses artists and rep that she feels have something different to convey. One of my records of the year was her pairing of the Copland and Finzi clarinet concertos, with Sarah Williamson and the Orchestra of the Swan, based in Shakespeare’s birthplace town.
Enjoy your farewell to Chopin…. there’s Mahler to come.


  • Marie Lamb says:

    Fresh, indeed! It’s like looking at a familiar painting with centuries of dust and varnish taken off, so that one sees it anew with clear colors and details. Well done, Mr. McCawley! When I get to WCNY today, it looks like I’ll be saying, “Oh, Pete…here’s something else we’ll need to order for the station!” Thanks again for all these gems, and I look forward to the Mahler tomorrow.

  • Marie Lamb says:

    I passed this along to a friend, Marie Ciliberti, a retired Voice of America radio producer who worked with Willis Conover on VOA’s Russian service. The lady knows her Chopin, and here is her take on it: “What a SENSATIONAL Christmas present. He nailed it: the lyricism, the pianissimos, the flow, the grace. It was perfect! Some pianists, especially Russian, have no understanding of Chopin and play him as if they were banging on the piano with meat cleavers. Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. MERRY CHRISTMAS.”