I'm a big fan of the pianist Stephen Kovacevich, who is a superb interpreter of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and Mozart. When I read a few years ago that EMI was thinking of having him record some Chopin, I was intrigued but had some trepidation as well.
The CD was published in 2006, and I bought it earlier this year, then waited months to open it. The performances are about what I'd feared: the notes are all there, and everything else is all wrong. Kovacevich's penetrating intelligence and intensity are misapplied to Chopin. In Beethoven, he illuminates form and structure brilliantly - but that's not what Chopin is about. He doesn't seem able to let go and let the music unfold with freedom and flexibility. Instead, his tempos are rigid, and Chopin's filigree and ornamentation sound applied to the line rather than growing naturally from it. There's no charm at all in his playing, though he manages a fine range of charm, wit, and humor when he plays Beethoven. I think Kovacevich just hasn't got much of a feel for how Chopin should go; it's a bad fit with his own artistic temperament. And that is okay: every musician has strengths and weaknesses.
Not long before I opened the CD, I picked up a copy of his early LP of Chopin on eBay. It's still sitting unopened, but maybe I will give it a whirl and see if things were different with Kovacevich and Chopin 30 or more years ago. I won't be able to do any direct comparisons, because there is no overlap between the CD and the LP.
I'm looking forward to whatever he has in the works for the future. I know he's been playing both Berg and Bach on his last couple of tours, and those composers do seem like a good fit for him.