Klara Min’s Microscopic Mazurkas

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Chopin’s Mazurkas lend themselves to a wide array of interpretations. You have the athleticism of Ignaz Friedman, Arthur Rubinstein (his first two cycles), and Antonio Barbosa-Lima. Then there’s Garrick Ohlsson with his supple whimsy and Adam Harasiewicz’s intense, darkly singing versions. At the other extreme lie subjectively stretched-out, detail-oriented interpretations by Russell Sherman, Jean-Marc Luisada, and the present collection of 17 Mazurkas from Klara Min.

She’s obviously pondered every note, every phrase, every rest, every dynamic gradation, and every nuance. Yet for all of Min’s microscopically projected inner voices, heart-stopping tenutos, outsized dynamics, and arguably exaggerated observation of dotted rhythms of rests, somehow she never sounds overindulgent or vague. More often than not, Min’s liberties command interest in how they point up Chopin’s amazing harmonic ideas and increasingly involved contrapuntal textures.

For example, the pianist makes the most out of the C major Op. 24 No. 2 outer section’s melodic embellishments, milks the aching chromaticism of Chopin’s final piece, Op. 68 No. 4, for all it’s worth, and imbues the Op. 50 No. 3’s imitative writing with a seemingly three-dimensional textural differentiation. Sometimes she overdoes the hyper-detailing when the music requires nothing more than eloquence and simplicity, as in the C major Op. 67 No. 3 Mazurka. However, in the A minor Op. 68 No. 2, Min exercises restraint without sacrificing incisiveness. As with Luisada, a little of Min’s studied approach goes a long way, and is best sampled one or two selections at a time. Yet Min’s superbly controlled technique and formidable coloristic resources allow her to fully realize her conceptions, aided by Delos’ vibrant, lifelike sonics.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Barbosa-Lima (Centaur); Ohlsson (Hyperion); Harasiewicz (Narodowy Istytut Fryderyka Chopin); Rubinstein (RCA)

    Mazurkas Op. 24 Nos. 1, 2, & 4; Op. 30 Nos. 3 & 4; Op. 63 Nos. 2 & 3; Op. 67 Nos. 2, 3, & 4; Op. 50 No. 3; Op. 56 No. 2; Op. 59 Nos. 1, 2, & 3; Op. 68 Nos. 2 & 4

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