Wednesday, 6 December 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, December 2017)



SCHUMANN Fantasie
Piano Sonata No.1
CHLOE MUN, Piano
Deutsche Grammophon 481 632-2 / ****1/2

By winning both the Geneva and Busoni International Piano Competitions in 2015, the young Korean pianist Chloe Jiyeong Mun has been compared with the legendary Argentine Martha Argerich (who accomplished that same feat in 1957), but that is selling her short. 

The back-story is that she was born to severely handicapped parents and raised on government social support. Playing on school and church-owned pianos, she honed her art to an astonishing degree that is evident in the 22-year old's all-Schumann debut disc.

Robert Schumann's First Piano Sonata in F sharp minor (Op.11) and Fantasie in C major (Op.17) are sprawling and ambitious works which require that extra spark of imagination and flair to bring the pages to life. Mun possesses the technical wherewithal and physical reserve to withstand the longeuers, even in the meandering and repetitious finale of Op.11, or the treacherous octave leaps in the central movement of Op.17. 

Her chief rival in these works is not Argerich, but the Italian Maurizio Pollini (also on Deutsche Grammophon) who reveals a darker edge and doggedness to the music in his celebrated 1970s recordings. She however has a wonderful filler in Blumenstück (Flower Piece), which is most prettily performed.