Dina Duisen is a young pianist from Kazakhstan who has studied in her native country and America before coming to London and completing her studies at the Royal Academy of Music. On this disc, designed to showcase her talents, she has put together a rather imaginative programme which takes the Mazurka on a journey from Chopin to Thomas Ades, along the way we hear music by Liszt, Saint-Saens, Tchaikovsky, Lyadov, Albeniz, Arensky, Debussy, Delius, Sibelius, scriabin, Gliere, Szymanowski, Prokofief and Ades.
The mazurka was originally a Polish folk-dance in triple-time with the accent on the second or third beat. Whilst Chopin was inspired by November Uprising in Poland to use a traditional Polish form, in fact his mazurkas are his effectively his own, newly invented form. The fascinating thing about this disc is how we can watch different composers reacting differently to the genre. Some create a work which is clearly a study like Chopin's, others take a very rhythmic view clearly owing a lot to the work's folk origins and other simply write salon music. Not every composer's voice is recognisable in his work. some write generic salon pieces which charm or show off, whilst others bring their own distinctive voice directly to bear.
Duisen opens with three of Chopin's 69 mazurkas, Mazurka in C sharp minor, Op.41 No.1, Mazurka in C major, Op.24 no.2 and Mazurka in B flat major Op.7 no.1. From the outset there is a nice roundness to her piano tone which I enjoyed. She brings a good strength feel to the underlying rhythms with the first mazurka having great urgency and drama too. The second is in fact rather salon-like than e might have expected, whilst the last has some crisp fingerwork and a nice snap to the RH melody.
Liszt's Mazurka brillante feels more dance-like in its rhythmic structure, but allied to a lovely shapely melody and it is far showier than Chopin (what a surprise!) with Duisen being very light-fingered here. Saint-Saens offers a pair of mazurkas, both are highly characterful. Mazurka in G minor, op.24 seems to take Mendelssohn's fairies on a trip to Poland, whilst Mazurka in B minor, op.. 66 is darker but still with cascades of notes. Duisen seems to have a knack with Saint-Saens style here.
Tchaikovsky's Mazurka de Salon in D minor, Op 9, No.3 is definitely salon-ish with a charming melody and lots of notes, whereas Mazurka in D minor, Op.39, No. 11 feels much more like a traditional dance. Neither sounds that like Tchaikovsky however! His countryman Anatol Lyadov provides two examples, Mazurka in F minor, Op.38 has a traditional feel but is rather busy and distinctly skittish whilst Mazurka in F minor, Op.57, No.3 is all charm with flowing elaborate lines.
Albeniz's Mazurka de salon Sofia, Op.66, no.4 is also firmly in the salon (and well away from Spain) but charms too. Arensky's Mazurka in G major, Op.53, No.4 combines rhythmic strength with a more flowing RH which does develop and element of drama.
Debussy's Mazurka in F sharp minor, L.67 is fully of interesting textures, and rather minor mode clearly showing the composer experimenting but still with a strong rhythmic feel. Delius's Mazurka is very short but combines a traditional rhythm with the composer's distinctive harmonies. After these two, Sibelius's Mazurka in A major, Op.34 no.4 is a pleasant enough dance, but you would hardly guess its composer.
Scriabin brings a fascinating feel for texture and harmony to his two Mazurkas Op.40 nos 1 & 2, and he obviously uses the form like a Chopin-esque etude more than anything else. The first of the pair has a rather remarkably evocative and wistful feel to it which is lovely. Reinhold Gliere's three Marukas Op. 29 nos. 1-3 are all imaginative salon-ish pieces. They are quite showy but not without charm.
By contrast Szymanowki's Mazuraks op.50 nos.13 & 14 are both highly imaginative works. The first quietly mysterious with complex harmonies and dark moments, the second full of distinctive harmonies. Prokofiev's Mazurka in B major, Op.12 No.4 is rather a stylish piece, with a nice harmonic tang and not a little wit.
Finally we leap a few years and come to the three Mazurkas Op.27 by Thomas Ades which take the form into the 21st century whilst still showing links with the past, as well as providing pianistic challenges.
This is a lovely disc, and showcases a player of some talent and charm. She throws off the more bravura pieces without ever losing sight of musicality and style, and brings the more complex ones out. But it also puts together an intriguing programme which many piano lovers will want.
Read the review at Planet Hugill...