“A famous pianist (I shan’t say who) to whom I was speaking recently said I really should hear this young Russian pianist Zlata Chochieva in the Chopin Etudes. ‘It is,’ averred my informant, ‘the greatest I’ve ever heard.’ Quite a claim.
I’ve now listened to this disc several times and all I can say is that in each of the 27 studies Chochieva comes as close as anyone to how I hear the ideal performance in my head, or as I would wish to play them had I the ability to do so. Right from the opening C major study, as in many others, she finds some extramusical narrative beyond the text that I find profoundly moving. Taken as read are a superlative technique and an ideal recorded sound (from engineer Peter Arts). No details are overlooked yet without drawing undue attention to them: note the staccato markings of the A minor study (richly voiced by Chochieva, the left hand sounds almost like a plucked string bass) and also in the second subject of No 3, a good example of the meltingly lovely tone Chochieva produces. No 4, so often tossed off as a finger sprint (Richter, Cziffra), is given room to breathe while still being played presto and con fuoco.
I could go on picking out highlights from each study – the question-and-answer voicing in No 9, the subtle rubato in Op 25 No 1, the infamous studies in thirds and sixths in which, simultaneously, Chochieva reminds us of Chopin the contrapuntalist – moments and passages which made me listen afresh to these familiar works and, in some cases, hear things of which I had been previously unaware. The greatest on disc? I don’t know; but it is certainly one of the most consistently inspired, masterfully executed and beautiful-sounding versions I can recall.”