Having won a special prize for the best Mazurka interpretations during the 1955 International Warsaw Chopin Competition, it's no surprise that pianist Fou Ts'ong has a long-standing reputation for playing--guess what?--Chopin Mazurkas! I've never heard Fou's all-Mazurka Westminster LP, but his complete Mazurka cycle issued in 1993 by Sony Essential Classics now gains reissue thanks to Arkivmusic.com's on-demand reprint program.
Fou's forceful, creative Mazurka style commands attention. He dishes out lots of rubato and elongated beats, together with wide dynamic extremes and outsized accents. Yet somehow the interpretations rarely sound fragmented, and no matter how far out things get, you almost always can discern the MazurkaRead more rhythm. What is more, Fou is not afraid to blur the pedal for coloristic and expressive purposes.
He's also fond of subjecting repeated phrases to subtle variations in nuance and touch (Op. 6 No. 1's main theme; Op. 7 No. 1's trills; Op. 63 No. 3's intense canonic dialogue; Op. 30 No. 4's dramatically contoured inner voices). Only occasionally does Fou's approach produce cloying results (Op. 17 No. 4 and Op. 68 No. 4).
The pianist also makes the most of transitional passages, be it a single, solitary upbeat or a quick succession of chords; Op. 24 No. 4, Op. 56 No. 3, and Op. 41 No. 2 are particularly striking in this regard. You easily can listen past the strident, harsh engineering, albeit not for long periods of time. That's just as well, since it's wisest to absorb Fou's multi-layered, hyper-detailed Mazurking in small doses.
Incidentally, Fou presents the Mazurkas in near-chronological order rather than according to opus, as is so often done. While Rubinstein's stereo and Ohlsson's digital Mazurka cycles remain safer, sonically superior versions of reference, Fou Ts'ong certainly casts individual and thought-provoking light on this repertoire.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com reviewing the complete set of Mazurkas recorded by Fou Ts'ong, Sony 53246Read less