The Rapid Transit Pianist, Sound Asleep (for the most part)

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 5

Sound Quality: 9

I first encountered Jennifer Lim through her breathtakingly fast and repeat-less Goldberg Variations recording. A few years later she made a relatively “normal” yet rather generic Mozart disc for Geniun. Her latest release focuses on so-called “night music”, with works that purportedly evoke darkness, introspection, sleep, and other qualities related to winding down after a full day.

She opens with Chopin’s popular E-flat Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, where the left hand accompaniment proves more interestingly shaped in relation to the pianist’s static unfolding of the famous right hand melody. By contrast, Lim serves up a beautifully full-bodied Liszt Liebesträume No. 3, where she builds the central climax with intensity and inevitability. The Beethoven “Moonlight” sonata Adagio is slow, understated, and laced with subtle pedal blurring. I find Lim’s interpretation best suited as background ambience for an acupressure treatment! However, it contrasts to the pianist’s bracing and texturally diversified approach to the Allegretto, where her pointed voice leading evokes more of a string quartet at play than a pianist’s ten fingers. In this context, Lim’s uneven articulation throughout the Presto finale surprises and disappoints.

Lim ambles through the Chopin D-flat and posthumous C-sharp minor Nocturnes on cruise control; the latter’s central Mazurka sequence dies on the proverbial vine. She stretches out Chopin’s B major Op. 62 No. 1 Nocturne to more than 10 minutes, not so much the result of slow tempos as much as Lim’s habitually amorphous ritards. Again, Lim’s nerveless, low-energy treatment of Debussy’s Clair de lune is more appropriate for a day spa than a concert hall.

The only way that one can sustain and hold interest throughout a super-slow traversal of the Brahms Piano Sonata No. 3’s Andante espressivo is to embrace as wide a range of dynamic contrast and nuance as possible, and simply give in to the music’s underlying yearning. Claudio Arrau did that supremely well. Jennifer Lim just strums through the music, making pretty yet unconnected sounds that basically reduce the young Brahms to New Age pabulum. Aside from that terrific Liszt Liebesträume No. 3 and strong “Moonlight” middle movement, we basically find our erstwhile Rapid Transit Pianist under the haystack, fast asleep.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: ...Into the Night
Reference Recording: None for this collection

FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN: Nocturnes Op. 9 No. 2, Op. 27 No. 2, Op. 62 No. 1, Op. Posth. in C-sharp minor
FRANZ LISZT: Liebesträume No. 3
CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Suite bergamasque: Clair de lune
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor Op. 27 No. 2 (“Moonlight”)
JOHANNES BRAHMS: Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor Op. 5 (Andante espressivo)

  • Jennifer Lim (piano)

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