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Frťdťric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Seventeen Mazurkas: Op. 24 No. 4; Op. 30 Nos. 3 and 4; Op 63 Nos. 2 and 3; Op. 67 No. 4; Op. 50 No. 3; Op. 24 Nos. 1 and 2; Op. 56 No. 2; Op. 59 Nos. 1-3; Op. 67 Nos. 3 and 2; Op. 68 Nos. 2 and 4
Klara Min (piano)
rec. 17-18 September 2012, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City
DELOS DE 3443 [52:22]

I originally listened to a few of these tracks in poor streaming sound and with bad headphones and disliked them, but that turned out to be a good thing. The appeal of Klara Minís Chopin is hard to bring off in bad sound. That appeal lies in the glowing tone of her piano, closely but certainly not claustrophobically recorded, and the subtlety with which she inflects these mazurkasí rhythms. It turns out that this is actually an excellent disc.
 
For one thing, Klara Min luckily picks out as her seventeen favorite mazurkas almost all of my own favorites; for another, her rhythmic sense is, as mentioned, unerring, with any slight hesitations or halts in the dance step carefully judged. This isnít the softest-edged or most poetic of interpretations - see Garrick Ohlsson and Ivan Moravec - but itís not a clattering rush, either; Min finds a middle path. The melodies tend to be distinctive but well-crafted: contrast with Russell Shermanís recent recording, where Sherman also attempts to put a new stamp on many of these pieces but often misjudges or simply sounds bizarre. Op. 56 No. 2 is a great example of why Klara Min is so good: the main tune is very sensitively delivered, but the piece still manages to rock.
 
Others have criticized her micro-managing, and it is true that just about every phrase, every pause, is very carefully calibrated. Thatís not to say they donít sound spontaneous; they do, certainly, for the most part, with maybe Op. 67 No. 3 and other very short pieces the most noticeably studied. If youíre distracted by such playing, you should take this under consideration; Minís playing is not as free and casual as some, and itís not as lyrically inclined as others Ohlsson, say, on Hyperion, or Moravec; the contrast with Moravec is strong in Op. 68 No. 2, where Min carefully singles out every trill note while Moravec favors an impressionistic cloud. I certainly found much to enjoy here, and Iíll be happy to listen to more from this pianist when it arrives. The booklet is exceptionally in-depth, with words on every mazurka, and a two-and-a-half page artist biography which could have used a good trim.
 
Brian Reinhart