Young Pianist, Old Soul

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Naturally I looked askance at this CD’s title, “Summit”, along with the booklet photos featuring pianist Nuron Mukumi pondering his scores in the vicinity of a snowy mountaintop. Are these real or photoshopped? What’s real, however, is this pianist’s undeniable yet still-developing talent. Mukumi was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 1996, and despite his young age he often reveals an old soul.

Liszt’s Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude can sound static and long-winded in the wrong hands, yet Mukumi’s full-bodied, harmonically aware pianism keeps the music active and alive. The same goes for Sposalizio, especially in its ardently built-up climax. Mukumi projects Funérailles’ declamatory passages as if reveling in the piano’s resonance, and manages to bring febrile excitement to the central left-hand octave ostinatos without turning the music into a mindless etude. While one might want more lyrical repose in the first of Liszt’s two St. Francis Legends, palpable sensitivity nevertheless emits from Mukumi’s beautifully modulated trills and arpeggiated chords. In time, I hope Mukumi will approach the opening thematic statement of St. Francis of Paul Walking on the Water with less fussy phrase tapering, in contrast to the more straightforward flow exhibited by pianists as disparate as Ciccolini, Brendel, and Kempff.

In the Chopin Second Sonata Mukumi stretches out the first movement’s introductory measures to a fault, then glibly piles into the exposition proper, while underlining the development section’s dynamic contrasts and dramatic gestures: overcompensating, perhaps? He plays the Scherzo’s main section with focused confidence, although he broaches the wide chord/octave two-handed leaps with caution, and diddles shapelessly throughout the Trio. Save for a few provincial ritards at phrase ends, Mukumi conveys genuine strength and gravitas in the Funeral March. While the Finale’s celebrated unison lines may not transpire at a whirlwind Presto in the manner of Gilels or Michelangeli, Mukumi’s interesting melodic shapes and accentuation choices beckon your attention. Although Mukumi has some maturing and artistic fine-tuning ahead of him, he’s certainly got potential, along with a genuine affinity for both the letter and the spirit of Liszt.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Summit
Reference Recording: Liszt Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude: Arrau (Philips), Chopin Piano Sonata No. 2: Freire (Decca)

    Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude; Sposalizio; Funérailles; Two Legends
    Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor Op. 35 (“Funeral March”)
  • Nuron Mukumi (piano)

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