The Nocturnes of Frédéric Chopin are among the most recorded works on disc, representing a kind of pianistic zenith – a bucket-list project that demands no less than a lifetime of artistic maturation. At 73 years of age, French pianist Alain Planès seems particularly well suited to the task, making this release one of the most anticipated of his career. 

Alain Planés

12 years after his award-winning Chopin chez Pleyel album, Planès returns to the same instrument to record the complete cycle of Nocturnes, and the results are no less impressive. Audio engineer Alban Moraud has evidently worked carefully with the (uncredited) piano technician to smooth out the rough edges of the now 185-year-old Pleyel, an atypically large example (2.4 m in length) from 1836 that is surprisingly rich and resonant. 

Planès conjures a dark, crepuscular magic throughout, and mounts a compelling case that the ubiquitous (and anachronistic) Steinway D should not necessarily be considered the definitive instrument on which to record these works. The creamy, velvety tone of the Pleyel...