Todd Crow’s Intriguing Chopin Mazurkas

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Todd Crow may not be a household name, yet many of his colleagues consider him to be a pianist’s pianist, whose cultivated artistry deserves wider attention. By and large, his survey of Chopin’s late Mazurkas intrigues.

In the Op. 41 group, Crow applies subtle dabs of rubato to No. 1’s somber chords, and gives contrasting character to both No. 2’s alternating three-note motive and the skittish passagework. However, the tenutos at phrase ends throughout the No. 3 Mazurka grow more and more predictable, while No. 4 could use more thrust and abandon (microphone shyness?). Crow takes his sweet time over the Mazurka dedicated to Émile Gaillard and “Notre Temps”. If the latter’s central major-key section sounds oddly detached, it’s probably because Crow takes the often ignored 16th-note rests quite literally.

Among the textually scrupulous and highly personalized Op. 50 readings, I find Crow’s approach best suited to No. 3’s moody contrasts and surprising harmonic twists. In Op. 56 Crow ingenuously “de-synchronizes” his hands in No. 1 to create a texturally three-dimensional effect. No. 2’s left-hand drones and ebullient theme need more swagger and accentuation, yet Crow’s sustained concentration in No. 3 transcends his unusually broad pacing (the pianist takes seven and a half minutes over a piece that usually times out to between five and six and a half minutes). No. 3 proves the expressive high point of Crow’s Op. 59 group, following a rather foursquare No. 2 and a similarly staid yet contrapuntally sophisticated interpretation of No. 1.

Would Crow play the Op. 63 Mazurkas with greater fluidity and freedom in front of an audience? Somehow his carefully considered conceptions fall flat under the microphone’s scrutiny. In the F minor Op. 68 No. 4, Crow plays a reconstruction by Kingsley Day that features an imaginative “filling out” of the hard-to-decipher middle section. Whatever Todd Crow’s mazurka playing lacks in scintillation and athleticism, he usually conveys the courage of his convictions.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: The Late Mazurkas
Reference Recording: Complete Mazurkas: Rubinstein (RCA); Barbosa (Centaur); Ohlsson (Hyperion); Harasiewicz (Fryderyk Chopin Institute)

    Mazurkas Op. 41, 50, 56, 59, 63, Op. 67 Nos. 2 & 4, Op. 68 No. 4; Mazurka in A minor (dedicated to Émile Gaillard); Mazurka in A minor (“Notre Temps")
  • Todd Crow (piano)

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