Photo: Olivier Allard

“Jean-Nicolas Diaktine, less an apprentice and more so a veritable master magician, infuses this wonderful and generous program with just the right magic spells.“

Jérémie Bigorie, Classica 07-08/22


Jean-Nicolas Diatkine’s style is often lauded for its fine nuances and great sensibility – ideal conditions to delve into the sensitive music of Frédéric Chopin. The French pianist chose two true showpieces by the Polish composer: Chopin’s third sonata and the Préludes op. 28. The result is extraordinary.

They were written in 1835/1836, and they show the admiration which Chopin felt for Johann Sebastian Bach: the Préludes op. 28. With this cyclical master piece, Chopin not only built on Bach’s well-tempered piano in a formal sense, but also regarding the constructive and material density of his musical material. Just like Alexander Skrjabin, Sergei Rachmaninov, Karol Szymanovski, but also Claude Debussy or Dmitri Shostakovich, Chopin felt inspired by Bach‘s contrapunctal artistry to write a cyclical collection of pieces. In their variety of expression and their intensity, the twenty-four Préludes op. 28 are exceptional among 19th century piano music, and they form a well-executed bridge between historical inspiration and Chopin’s individual expressiveness. Here, they are masterfully performed by Jean-Nicolas Diatkine.

For many years, Diatkine has been studying the expressive worlds of Chopin. He took the composer’s advice to heart, who told his students to listen intently to vocalists. This also becomes apparent in Diatkine’s style. His play is full of expression, it is cantabile, and it dives deep into the musical exctasy of Chopin. At the same time, it creates new, incomparable views into the composer’s musical universe, for example in the third sonata op. 58. Here, the first and last movements are of a ballad-like character, the second is a scherzo, and the third a nocturne. In the late fall of 1844, Chopin finished up this work, and published it in the following year with a dedication to Countess Emilie de Perthuis, one of his students. At the time, the sonata was met with some critcism. The composer Vincent d’Indy did recognize its high melodic inventiveness, but criticized the lack of a sense of structure. A different reviewer found the sonata to be – despite brilliant details – a “completely unsuccessful work,“ as he wrote. Thankfully, we look at it differently today – especially after listening to the present recording by Jean-Nicolas Diatkine.

Jean-Nicolas Diatkine began his musical education at the age of six. During his time as a student, two encounters were decisive: one with Ruth Nye, teacher at the Yehudi Menuhin School and at the Royal College of Music in 1989, and one with Narcis Bonet, student of Nadia Boulanger, in 1994. Chopin always advised his students to listen to singers. Jean-Nikolas Diaktine took this adivce to heart and decided to be a répétiteur and coach in the vocal school of Yva Barthélémy in Paris between 1996 and 2006. In 2000, he was discovered by mezzo soprano Alicia Nafé and tenor Zeger Vandersteene, whom he accompanied at countless lieder evenings in France and Belgium, among others for the concert series Autour du Piano, the piano festival Pianissime, and the Opéra Bastille in Ghent, where the audience voted him best piano discovery of the past ten years. Since 2011, he has performed at the Salle Gaveau in Paris every year. In May 2017, he completed his first concert tour through Japan (Tokyo, Yamanashi). In his recitals, Diatkine explores a wide spectrum of piano works, such as Händel’s suites, Shostakovich’s Preludes, the Appassionata and Opus 101 by Beethoven, Schubert’s last Sonata D. 960, the Symphonic Etudes by Schumann, as well as the four ballads by Chopin. His repertoire also includes seldomly performed pieces by Liszt, such as Les Réminiscences de Boccanegra, and Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel.