Klara Min at Wigmore Hall – Chopin & Schumann … Sean Hickey UK premiere

Arabeske, Op.18
Fantasiestücke, Op.12
Sean Hickey
Cursive [UK premiere]
Mazurkas – in F minor, Op.63/2; in C sharp minor, Op.63/3; in C, Op.56/2
Piano Sonata in B minor, Op.58

Klara Min (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 23 April, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Klara Min at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, November 8, 2012. Photograph: ©Chris LeeA native of South Korea and now living in New York, Klara Min chose a programme for her Wigmore Hall recital that was akin to entering the gladiatorial arena. She didn’t emerge unscathed, but she will fight another day. Schumann’s Arabeske was poised and poetic, the pianist soulful and tenderly enquiring, and also somewhat innocent. Such promise didn’t always carry through into the composer’s Fantasiestücke, eight in number, in which Klara Min’s playing lacked for variegation and could be a little muffled and earthbound, not seamless enough in the rapidity of ‘Traumes Wirren’ (Confusing Dreams) and somewhat hectoring in the opening pages of ‘Ende vom Lied’ (End of the Song).

She played with sincerity though, a quality that continued into the second-half Chopin if with some similar detractions, such as some muddled textures and moments of uncertainty, particularly noticeable in the B minor Sonata, which needed a lighter approach to the gossamer scherzo, and more depth in the succeeding Largo, which was somewhat foursquare in phrasing. She was though unstintingly resolute in the outer movements, and the first enjoyed some lovely lyrical playing. The Sonata was prefaced by three Mazurkas that brought out the most of Klara Min’s reflective and sensitive side.

As the recital’s centrepiece was the UK premiere of Cursive by Sean Hickey, born in Detroit in 1970. The piece made quite an impression over its eleven minutes, obsessive and nightmarish in its opening, busy and engaging throughout save for pensive contrasts. This is gritty music, mood-swings not always squaring on a first listen, and invention flagging a little towards the end, but soon recovering for what seemed a witty conclusion. In this obviously impressive performance, Cursive is a good entrée into Sean Hickey’s music. After playing Chopin, one anticipated that Klara Min would offer something from her recent Naxos recording of Korean piano music as an encore; in fact she gave a moving rendition of a Prelude (No.21) from Scriabin’s Opus 11 collection, beautifully played.

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