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Sims a poet with Chopin; Bachauer medalists on CD

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LORI SIMS; "Works by Frederic Chopin" (Bachauer Recording Series) ***

VARIOUS ARTISTS; "25 Years of Gold: New Recordings of the Gold Medalists of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition" (Bachauer Recording Series) ***

Subtlety is the key word in Lori Sims' playing.

Her performances on "Works by Frederic Chopin" are delightfully understated and refreshingly alive. She is an exceptionally talented pianist whose approach shows an uncanny ability to bring out the inherent lyricism in Chopin's music. Simply put, Sims is a poet when it comes to Chopin.

The Ballade in G minor, op. 23, and the Polonaise in F sharp minor, op. 44, for example, are exquisitely crafted pieces. And the Waltz in E flat major, op. 18, is finally played the way it should be — and so seldom is — with impeccable elegance and no trace of theatricality.

Other works on this album include the Waltzes, op. 64, no. 1, and op. 70, no. 1, and the Barcarolle in F sharp major, op. 60. Sims, however, saves the best for last — the Sonata in B minor, op. 58.

This work has seldom been played with such finesse and perfection as in Sims' interpretation here. Everything is balanced and carefully structured and presented with flair and style. You can't go wrong with this CD.

THE "25 YEARS OF GOLD" double album features pieces recorded late last year by every gold medal winner of the Bachauer competition, and there are several notable performances by the 11 pianists on this CD.

Lori Sims shines once again in the "Toccata," op. 7, and the "Arabesque," op. 18, both by Schumann.

Gail Niwa is stunning in her interpretation of Tchaikovsky's "Dumka," and Nicholas Angelich gives a strong performance of Ravel's demanding "La Valse."

One of the finest performances on this album, though, is by Arthur Greene, a Scriabin authority, who, not surprisingly, plays three works by the Russian composer — the Etude in D sharp minor, op. 8, no. 12, the "Fantasy," op. 28, and the Three Etudes, op. 65. Greene puts passion and driving energy into his dynamic performances.

Xiang-Dong Kong gives a dramatic performance of Liszt's "Spanish Rhapsody," while Duane Hulbert's interpretation of Barber's Sonata is crisp and classically proportioned.

Both this album and Sims' are available by calling the Bachauer office at 521-9200.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com