An utterly magical but relatively obscure recording. Chiu’s playing is far from orthodox, but where it is unusual it is always beautifully so. Even the most surprising approaches are grounded in rock-solid musical logic: a good case in point would be the 10.10, which seems to open with an act of wilful musical oddness. In fact the approach is completely justified: the beginning of the piece is the only point where Chopin places slurs between both off-beat and dissonant notes, and the odd, gulping effect happens because Chiu is careful to observe those slurs (emphasising them, as is normally done, by slightly prolonging the first note of each slurred pair) even where most pianists don’t. Elsewhere, the slurs sort of come back into sync with the harmony/rhythm, which means that even though they are still there, they’re nowhere near as noticeable. Also note how carefully cross-rhythms (look out for the accents) are teased out from m.6 onwards, even though these extraordinary little rhythmic details are ignored by many pianists.Chiu plays with hyperfine dynamic control (see 10.12 and 25.12) and a gift for elucidating even the most fleeting details, especially when it comes to voicing. He handles swings from fortissimo to pianissimo with preternatural deftness, and is absurdly good with quiet passages in general (see 25.1). He’s also got a great knack for inserting variation into etudes with relatively homogenous textures: 10.1 and 25.3 are good examples of that. And, when necessary, he’s capable of some great feats of virtuosity: see 10.4. This is one of those recordings which is hard – very hard – not to fall rapidly in love with. It’s intensely personal, musically meticulous, and a lot of fun. [Timings below, with asterisks to mark out particularly striking performances.]Op.10*00:00 – No.1. There’s a lot of really exquisite dynamic shading in this one: the playing gives it a kind of narrative cohesion that’s not usually there.01:59 – No.203:23 – No.3*08:03 – No.4. A razor-sharp, almost impossibly precise recording that shows that in place of bravura it’s possible to substitute a big helping of wit.09:57 – No.5. Silken, mesmeric.11:34 – No.616:21 – No.7*17:53 – No.8. Note the emphasis on the LH and the wafer-thin lightness of the RH, which gives the piece a march-like feel.20:03 – No.9. The unusually detached phrasing makes for something dramatic and pulsating.*22:11 – No.1024:20 – No.11. Played without the now-customary lingering on the first chord of each bar, and voiced exquisitely.*27:28 – No.12. Extraordinary intensity, aided by those incredible dynamic contrasts.Op.2530:25 – No.133:10 – No.2*34:40 – No.3. The playing here takes you through a pretty striking array of textures, with some creative voicing thrown in.36:38 – No.438:05 – No.5. Another little gem of voicing, with a sedate but meltingly alluring middle section.42:11 – No.6*44:21 – No.749:53 – No.851:01 – No.952:00 – No.10. A beautifully rendered middle section, played with freedom and tenderness.*56:13 – No.11. Yet more imaginative coloration and an impeccable sense of narrative, conveyed through playing of great power. *59:44 No.12. Might well be the best recording of this I’ve come across – the voicing, so often muffled, is clear, and the variation in speed, texture, and shape of each of the runs is breathtaking.