Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 5
Sound Quality: 10
In my review of Jin Ju’s MDG solo debut for Classicstoday.com, I called the young Beijing-based pianist “a work-in-progress”, notwithstanding her obvious potential (read review here). Judging from what appears to be the first in a series devoted to Chopin’s late works, my opinion remains the same. One case in point concerns Ju’s shapeless unfolding of the Fourth Ballade’s introductory measures (complete with an impossibly dragged-out ritenuto), which gives way to a square, inhibited exposition of the opening theme. The pianist suddenly accelerates for the G-flat theme (with the legato left-hand octaves) for no apparent reason other than to accelerate. The strenuous coda’s intricate polyphony is texturally confusing, and is capped by a vulgar ritard in the final measures.
The Poloniase-Fantasie receives a similarly episodic interpretation, and the Nocturnes feature generic and ultimately predictable speed-ups at climaxes and slow-downs at cadences—but notice the B major Op. 61 No. 1’s gorgeously inflected long chains of trills. The Barcarolle’s arbitrary tempo fluctuations make for choppy waters and a bumpy gondola ride, so to speak. While Ju’s rendition of the E major Scherzo isn’t particularly incisive or exciting, her supple fingerwork and rhythmic focus truly jell here. The Op. 59 pieces that open the disc absorb Jin Ju’s impulsive style best, where the pianist’s rhythmic push/pull effects bring out the Mazurka idiom’s soaring accentuation, helped by her strong projection of bass lines. An uneven, though splendidly engineered and intelligently annotated SACD.
Buy Now from Arkiv Music
Recording Details:Reference Recording: Op. 61: Horowitz (Sony); Op. 59: Argerich (DG); Nocturnes: Moravec (Nonesuch), Freire (Decca)
- CHOPIN, FRÉDÉRIC:Mazurkas Op. 59; Scherzo No. 2 in E major Op. 54; Nocturnes Op. 55 & 62; Barcarolle in F-sharp major Op. 60; Polonaise-Fantasie in A-flat major Op. 61