Ashkanazy and Pollini are both outstanding Chopin performers. Pollini does not have a complete Nocturne, a few are on his "must-have" piano concerto recording with Kletiz conducting. But will recommend his 3 cd Chopin set(Etudes etc),recording sonics are very good,the piano sound is very good as well. Ashkanazy does have 2 releases that contain all the Noctures. London/Decca 452579 all Nocturnes + 4 Ballads. The other is the complete Chopin music, that may be the way to go, Ashkanazy performs ALL!! the music with great technique with a poetic touch! The sonics are not too good(low volume on the amp is best), but will add that the piano does not have a grand sound to it, which seems to sing the music in an "old-style", like its timeless. For that reason you hear the music more and the physical piano itself seems to "disappear". Pollini's piano as well is tonally perfect for Chopin, and recording sonics are outstanding.
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Ivan Moravec's performances of the Nocturne's are transcendental. If you have any interest in Chopin and you have not heard Moravec's performances, you owe it to yourself to seek them out. The intelligence of his performances are matched only by the depth of feeling with which he informs each note and each musical phrase.
Moravec's performances of the Nocturne's are available on CD on the Nonesuch label as a reissue of the Connoisseur Society recordings originally released on LP. The Connoisseur Society label made some of the most natural and realist recordings of piano that have ever been placed on tape. Their Moravec recordings were some of their best.
Available from Barnes & Noble and other mail order sources:
Rushton, you have excellent tastes. Ashkenazy is excellent, but the recordings are a bit dry. Rubinstein's is also excellent, but I'm not too fond of the recorded sound. For me Moravec's performances are excellent as is the sound. For Chopin recitals there is a recent Dorian release by Moravec, lots of etc, and on Telarc there is Parker and Frager (on a Bosendorfer). Both very good performances in excellent sound.
Moravec on Chopin is definetly worth checking out. Just got in Mozart PC #20+23 Moravec/Marriner, the performance is stunning. Moravec performs on Mozart just as Rushton describes. Each note is heard distinctly, with poetic feeling, without doubt the best Mozart. I have other Mozart/Moravec on the way.
Try the Ballades and the Mazurkas. If you like the Moravec Nocturnes, stay with Moravec for the Mazurkas and Ballades. On CD, Vox offers a very economical 2-CD set that will also introduce you to the marvels of Moravec's Debussy:
Supraphon offers a nice set of Chopin Preludes performed by Moravec:
For the Chopin Waltzes, try Rubinstein's performances.
I must admit to never having heard Moravec performing Chopin so cannot compare. With this outpouring of Moravec recommendations, I think I know what my next few piano CDs will be... Of the others mentioned above (or not mentioned - Busoni, Dutra, Bolet, Dutra, etc), on the CD format, I am partial to Evgeny Kissin (with Pollini coming in a close second) for the Preludes. I have always liked Pollini on the Etudes.
Dinu Lipatti simply owns the waltzes. However, it is a mono recording, though relatively clean and good piano tone, so if you can, give it a listen first.
For mazurkas, I love Kapell on RCA, but again, sound quality may be an issue (again, not bad, but they are 50s recording and not Living Stereo issue) and it's not a complete set. Transcendent recording of sonata #3 should help to ease the pain on sonic front. Sonata #2 which is also included, has terrible sonics, unfortunately, and I prefer Michelangeli, Novaes and Sokolov anyways.
Pollini is superb in polonaises and is in excellent sound on DG.
For ballades, Sviatoslav Richter is unequalled. #1 and #2 can be found on BMG's Russian Piano School set (should be able to buy single CD of it now) and #3 and #4 are on DG. Sound on DG is quite good, BMG less so but listenable.
I again return to Richter for scherzi. Best sound/performance will be found on Olympia label, although performances are better on Doremi label, albeit in poor sound.
Not sure who I can recommend for etudes. My personal reference is Cortot and I simply stopped looking for other sets when I heard these and bought 'em but the sonics are pretty bad (20s/30s recording). I guess Ashkenazy is serviceable in good sound (not sure if he released complete etudes though).