Notes and Editorial Reviews
Born in 1982, Kotaro Fukuma has made a name for himself on the competition circuit, notably in his first-prize victory in the 2003 Cleveland International Competition. His all-Schumann debut recital disc for Naxos unquestionably explains his past successes. The program opens with an impetuous, remarkably fleet-fingered, and diversely characterized account of the Abegg Variations that matches Lang Lang's finesse note for note, minus the latter's swooning mannerisms. Fukuma's talents further shine in the Novelletten Op. 21, whose eight pieces are rarely recorded (let alone performed) as a cycle.
No. 1's marcato block chords are buoyant yet full-bodied, while the lyrical second theme sings out in relatively strict tempo.
Notice also how Fukuma clarifies the staccato marks over No. 2's whirling right-hand 16th notes, yet still prevents them from sounding mechanical. The pianist brilliantly plays up No. 3's strange harmonic detours and unexpected tempo gearshifts, No. 4's giddy ballroom evocations, and No. 5's tipsy march-like aura. Surprisingly, Fukuma holds back a bit in No. 8, the cycle's largest and arguably greatest movement, which needs more dynamic sweep and dramatic ardor than the pianist is willing to concede. You find those qualities in Sviatoslav Richter's various performances over the years or in Claudio Arrau's more massively-textured early-'70s recording of the cycle (not available singly).
Out of the Op. 111 triptych I especially enjoyed Fukuma's calm fluidity in the second piece, underscoring the outer sections' kinship with Schubert's A-flat Moment Musical. All told, this young pianist's impressive pianism and insightful musicianship bode well for future recordings. I look forward to them!
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Theme and Variations on the name Abegg, Op. 1: Abegg Variations, Op. 1
8 Novelletten, Op. 21: I. Markiert und kraftig
8 Novelletten, Op. 21: II. Ausserst rasch und mit Bravour
8 Novelletten, Op. 21: III. Leicht und mit Humor
8 Novelletten, Op. 21: IV. Ballmassig, sehr munter
8 Novelletten, Op. 21: V. Rauschend und festlich
8 Novelletten, Op. 21: VI. Sehr lebhaft, mit vielem Humor
8 Novelletten, Op. 21: V. Ausserst rasch
8 Novelletten, Op. 21: VI. Sehr lebhaft
3 Fantasiestucke, Op. 111: I. Sehr rasch, mit leidenschaftlichem Vortrag
3 Fantasiestucke, Op. 111: II. Ziemlich langsam
3 Fantasiestucke, Op. 111: III. Kraftig und sehr markiert
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