"DANCES OF THE SOUL"
Melvyn M. Sobel | Freeport (Long Island), New York | 12/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In his book, CHOPIN: THE MAN AND HIS MUSIC, published in 1900, James Huneker wrote the above prescient observation about the fabulous Mazurkas. "Dances of the soul." Wonderful. Wish I had thought of it. (One might conclude, then, that Chopin's Waltzes are "dances of the heart," and his Polonaises, "dances of the spirit." The fact is: Dance inhabits Chopin's musical "soul," if not his entire musical "world." His Rondos, Tarantelle, the Bolero, Contradanse, the Ecossaises, et. al., attest to this even further.)
Liszt (that incredible reprobate!) said of the Mazurkas: "Coquetries, vanities, fantasies, inclinations, elegies, vague emotions, passions, conquests, struggles...all, all meet in this dance."
With these thoughts in mind, I came to Garrick Ohlsson's fascinating journey through the Chopin Mazurkas (Volume 11 in his Arabesque traversal of the composer's "complete" works). Not since Rubinstein have these mazurkas been treated with such affection; yet, as personal as the older pianist's interpretations are--- and make no mistake about it, his latter-day renditions are masterful benchmarks--- I feel Mr. Ohlsson supercedes him in his sheer willingness to dare explore the inner voices, the ticklish quirkiness and awkward symmetry, the haunting, persistent melancholy and intrinsic pathos. Beneath, and despite, their seemingly extrovert nature lies a morbidity untapped by most performers, yet so linked to the Chopin personality. It takes courage to plunge this deeply.
Ohlsson takes up the challenge, and the sound given him is full, warm, intimate, matching his conception flawlessly. The liner notes by Frank Cooper, as always, are excellent.
[Running time--- CD 1: 71:20 CD 2: 69:27]"