The Hänssler Classics label has commissioned pianist Eugene Mursky to record the complete works of Chopin to commemorate the composer’s 200th birthday in 2010. I believe this album comprising 57 Mazurkas is volume 10 of the project.
One source I have seen asserts that Chopin wrote at least 59 Mazurkas which are miniatures for solo piano, a form based on Polish folk dances in triple time, that he developed into his own genre. Robert Schumann wrote that “each of the mazurkas has an individual poetic feature, something distinctive in form or expression.” Evidently the Mazurka emanates from Poland’s Masovia region, where the young Chopin lived. The Mazurkas were written in 13 cycles from 1825 throughout his life until his death in 1849. Following the Russian occupation Chopin left Poland for good in 1831. From his adopted Paris home Chopin cultivated an idealised image of his Polish motherland and many of the Mazurkas could be said to be examples of the composer looking back nostalgically to his homeland. Musicologist Artur Bielecki has written that “Pianistically uncomplicated, the mazurkas display an inexhaustible wealth of melodic invention and of harmonic, rhythmic and, above all, expressive nuances.”
Eugene Mursky was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan then part of the former Soviet Union and studied in Moscow with Professor Lev Naumov and later with Reinhard Becker at Musikhochschule Trossingen, Germany. In fine form here Mursky clearly relishes these Chopin Mazurkas with highly consistent playing which never fails to lift the spirits. Keeping idiosyncrasy at bay, splendidly managed is the tone and texture. There is an uncommon music sense of phrasing from Mursky together with an abundance of rhythm and style. From the first CD, I savour Op. 7/2 for its gentle, rather reflective character, the popular A minor score, Op. 17/4 is so intensely romantic, Op. 24/2 feels proud and strutting, and Op. 41/3 is quicksilver and robust. Notable on the second CD are Op. 50/2 infectious and dance-like, Op. 59.1 for its delightful meanderings, Op. 67/1 has a sense of motion, like an acrobat on a trapeze, Op. 68/2 has an exotic fragrance of the Middle East and Op. 68/4 is so heart-breakingly tender. Recorded at Grosser Saal, Musikhochschule Trossingen the sound engineers have provided close, crystal clear, robust sound quality although the rather narrow dynamics are a source of some disappointment. In the booklet Dr. Ulrich Köppen has written the instructive essay.
With notable musicianship Eugene Mursky lavishes great care and attention on Chopin’s Mazurkas. Nevertheless, my firm first-choice account of the Mazurkas remains the quite stunning performance by Artur Rubinstein recorded in 1965/66 at New York City. Forming part of the Artur Rubinstein Collection (Volume 50) the recording of 51 Mazurkas is available as a double CD set on RCA Red Seal.
A minor (à Emile Gaillard)
A minor (Notre Temps No. 2)
B major (1826)
D major (1832)
B major (1832)
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