Schubert: Sonata in D major; Liszt: Don Juan Fantasy; Gnomenreigen

Min Kwon

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Schubert: Sonata in D major; Liszt: Don Juan Fantasy; Gnomenreigen Review

by Uncle Dave Lewis

By all accounts, pianist Min Kwon has heretofore experienced an A-plus career as pianist, chamber musician, festival participant, and journalist. She also has played as half of a piano duet with her sister, Yoon Kwon, which may explain why prior to this MSR Classics disc Min Kwon hasn't made a disc alone before. If all things in classical music were based on the quality of one's artistry alone, she would have made a solo disc a long time ago. One admires the strength and assertiveness of her Schubert sonata; it's an affirmative and direct performance that has little use for languor, rhapsodic longing, or the encrustations of typically romanticized readings. Kwon states in her excellently written liner notes that she was deliberately trying to appeal to a "Schubert-loving, patient, and anti-New York-paced listener." However, it moves along at a good, sensible clip, and while there is ample depth of feeling in her interpretation, one appreciates that she has not lost sight of the roots this work has in classical style, its essentially popular orientation, and the expectations of listeners.

Kwon turns some striking corners in the Liszt works she undertakes; she has an innate grasp of Liszt's phrase lengths, which -- if you've ever seen his heavily marked and excessively busy piano scores -- can be difficult to divine. She recognizes periods in his music as being distinct utterances and is able to take advantage of sudden twists and turns in this music that often get lost in the mud of his thick pianistic language. The readings of "Gretchen" and Gnomenreigen here are flat-out great. MSR Classics' recording is on the same page with Kwon in that it is direct, full, and immediate. Anti-New York paced or not, MSR Classics' Schubert: Sonata in D major D. 850 -- Liszt delivers the same kind of pleasure that typifies a good, strong cup of coffee made from the best beans, and like most entertainments of this kind, hopefully one cup will lead to another.

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