Kun Woo Paik

Kun Woo Paik plays Gabriel Fauré

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The solo piano works of Gabriel Fauré are frequently overshadowed by those of Chopin, Debussy, and Ravel, but this disc by Kun Woo Paik is a very welcome addition to the relatively small pool of recordings dedicated to Fauré's music. Paik shows exactly where Fauré's music fits into the continuum between Chopin and Debussy and Ravel. He finds the flowing lyricism and delicate ornamentation that follow Chopin's example, and the harmonies and pianistic colors that precede Debussy and Ravel. There are also some elements of the Germanic Romantic piano school, particularly in the Romances sans paroles and the Impromptu No. 2 -- like Mendelssohn's Songs without Words -- and in the Schumann-like character of those pieces that have more drama or variation in mood between sections, such as Fauré's last piano work, Nocturne No. 13. Paik sounds as if he knows these pieces instinctively and intimately, he knows exactly how he wants each phrase to sound and each idea he wants to communicate, but his playing isn't over-analytical. It's personal, lush, and adoring. It may be too saccharine for those who dislike the Romantic penchant for sentimentality and theatrics, but Paik doesn't give in to cloyingness and doesn't communicate anything he doesn't feel. The highlight of the disc is the solo version of the Ballade, more often heard in its piano and orchestra version. In this version, it's not only a heroic narrative, but also a demonstration of Fauré's full understanding of the piano as an instrument and a virtuosic challenge to the performer. Decca's clear sound allows Paik's playing to resonate attractively. This is a treat for fans of both Fauré and Romantic piano music.

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