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*** CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 2; other works. Emanuel Ax, piano. Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Sir Charles Mackerras, conductor. (Sony)

October 25, 1998|Chris Pasles

The appeal--or gimmick--here is a performance on original instruments. The piano is a restored 1851 London Erard. Vis-a-vis a modern grand, the Erard sounds woodier, more polished, deeper, muddier, clumsier, slower in the mid-to-low range, more delicate and elfin in the upper range. It's candlepower compared with fluorescent lighting.

None of this means that the instrument lacks subtlety. And neither does Ax's affectionate performance. But aural adjustments must be made. You sense more intimacy but also a veil drawn over the music. For his part, Mackerras accompanies with aristocratic poise and warmth.

Incidentally, it's unfortunate that the gleaming instrument pictured in the booklet is not the one Ax uses, but a "similar" one, made in 1900. That's more than several lifetimes in the development of the piano.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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