Fryderyk Chopin’s evergreen Mazurkas lend themselves to a wide variety of interpretations, and on her CD on the Delos label, Korean pianist Klara Min shines another light on them in a personal survey of her favourites.
The mazurka is a Polish folk dance in three time with an accent on the second or third beat. Chopin elevated the form into the concert miniature, in effect creating a new genre that became known as the “Chopin genre”. The sixty-nine Mazurkas that he composed in his lifetime remain amongst his best-loved music for piano. They offer some of the most intimate musical insights into Chopin’s relationship with his homeland, with their lilting rhythms and harmonies, poignant suspensions, tender, meandering melodies and falling cadences, and the subtle use of rubato. Others are more lively, with bright rhythms and piquant textures; yet all seem imbued with zal, that untranslatable Polish word so often associated with the music of Chopin, suggesting nostalgia and longing.
Klara Min’s approach to these works is sympathetic and thoughtful, if occasionally a little too studied in some of the phrasing and use of tenuto. But overall she neatly captures the individual idiosyncrasies, and shifting nuances and textures of these miniatures, with melodies sensitively highlighted, though never at the expense of the interior architecture of the music (the Mazurkas are replete with complex harmonies and counterpoint). A warm tone and wide-ranging pianistic colours, combined with supple tempo rubato, a plaintive tenderness, which runs through all the works on the CD, and Min’s technical acuity result in a charming reading of these exquisite miniatures. The selection closes as intimately as it opens, with the heartrending Op 68, no. 4, Chopin’s last composition – a piece which my piano teacher says she never teaches to students “because it is so very special”.
The CD comes with detailed notes and is produced with vibrant, clean sounds.
Klara Min will feature in a forthcoming Meet the Artist interview