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Scriabin / Klara Min

Release Date: 01/08/2016
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30045 Spars Code: DDD
Composer:  Alexander Scriabin Performer:  Klara Min Number of Discs: 1
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins.

A native of South Korea, Klara Min has performed extensively throughout North America and Europe as well as in her home country of South Korea, in some of the world’s most important concert venues. She is a Steinway Artist and is based in Berlin and New York.

“Brilliant playing...intuitive musicianship” - Classic FM, UK

“Min plays with the most ravishing piano tone.” - American Record Guide

Album Credits:
Recorded July 13-14, 2015 at Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia
Producer: Dan Merceruio
Engineer: Daniel Shores

Executive Producers: Eric Feidner, Jon Feidner
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carasquillo
Read more Steinway Model D #590904 (New York)
Piano Technician: John Veitch

"Solo piano in the right hands can be such a majestic thing. Playing with deep motivation and an understanding for the music that shows she’s ready, willing and able to go beyond, this set open the ears in so many directions at once you probably can’t keep up with it all right out of the box. Lovely stuff showing off a player that will be enchanting ears for years."


Collectors familiar with Klara Min’s stretched-out, compulsively detailed Chopin Mazurkas (Delos) will find her Scriabin less idiosyncratic, yet ripe with subjectivity and colourful nuance. Although Min employs liberal tempo fluctuation, her strong melodic declamation and gift for generating harmonic tension and release prevent the interpretations from losing shape and focus.
These qualities particularly reveal themselves via comparative listening. For example, in the Op 11 Preludes, Piers Lane (Hyperion, 5/01) favours steadier overall tempi and makes expressive points primarily through touch, while Min might linger on a cadence, lean into a juicy modulation (as in Prelude No 3) or give an extra nudge or two to the bass-lines (No 6). In No 7, Min’s attention to the composer’s asymmetric left-hand patterns reveals a darker side to a piece that most pianists cheerfully toss off, while No 16’s unison lines inspired by Chopin’s ‘Funeral March’ twist, turn and brood, guided by unpredictable accents.

In the slight and conversational ‘Feuillet d’album’, Op 45 No 1, Min draws out the ends of each animated phrase as if she wanted to capture these moments in a kind of freeze-frame shot. On the other hand, tapered phrases lend a generic air to the C sharp minor Etude, Op 2 No 1, in contrast to the mesmerising long legato lines of Dmitri Alexeev’s stunning recent version (Brilliant, 12/15). If the Op 32 No 1 Poème oozes by with little textural differentiation, Min compensates with her quizzically lithe and transparent readings of the little Op 57 pieces (‘Désir’ and ‘Caresse dansé’). In short, Min’s finest performances on this gorgeously engineered release will make Scriabin fans sit up and take notice.

-- Gramophone

Before the minimalism of today, we had the predominantly quiet and thoughtful music of Scriabin that was pointing toward the compositional world of today. But he was pointing to this new musical thought while standing firmly in the basis of the melodic Romantic era, so that, to the modern ear, his works feel profoundly peaceful, with the soothing touch of reassuring melody. Min has the technique to make Scriabin’s sometimes challenging structures smooth as velvet, and the reassuring restraint to let the music unfold as slowly as an Iris blossom. She has chosen works that fit together beautifully, to immerse us in restful refreshment of a musical oasis.

-- The WSCL Blog

"Klara Min’s Scriabin recital is simply lovely, although that should not be taken to mean that it in any way downplays the sometimes breezy, often virtuosic demands of the music. The centerpiece of Min’s Steinway & Sons CD is the set of Op. 11 Preludes, which are built on Chopin’s Op. 28 set and follow the same key sequence by alternating major keys with their relative minors. These works have something of Chopin’s sensibilities in them as well, but refined and harmonically expanded in ways that would later come to seem typical of Scriabin—for instance, in the way that No. 9 in E, written in 1896, has the left hand mostly in C-sharp minor, resulting in what is essentially a dual-tonality piece. Scriabin was not primarily a miniaturist, but the pieces on this disc show him collecting miniatures into longer forms: the 24 elements of Op. 11, for example, last for less than 40 minutes. Min does a particularly good job of giving each of the Preludes its own individual character, whether in the unusual use of tempo changes to alter note values in No. 1 (1896) or in the juxtaposition of the beautiful left-hand and right-hand melodies in No. 4 (1888, the earliest of these works). The emotional ebb and flow of the Preludes is not always predictable, but Min has no problem moving from one aspect of the music to the next, and manages to make the whole set convincing even as she highlights the different characters of its components. Her nuanced and well-balanced interpretations are equally effective in the other works, also short, on the CD. The fleeting and light Prelude in B, Op. 2, No. 2 opens the disc; the longer and more serious Etude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 2, No. 1 closes it (the third of the three pieces from Op. 2 is unfortunately missing here). The impromptus, Op. 14 are forthright (at least for Scriabin) studies in light and dark; Poème in F-sharp is also comparatively straightforward and is serene in mood. The remaining works here make an interesting study in contrasts and display Min’s thoughtfulness to a considerable degree: the Three Pieces, Op. 45 are quiet and never quite settle into any particular scene-setting or mood-setting, while the Two Pieces, Op. 57, although also brief, are more definitive in their darkness and air of mystery. Scriabin is an elusive composer at best, his synesthesia providing him with connections between aural and visual experiences that listeners cannot always easily absorb. Min, however, shows a firm understanding of Scriabin’s aesthetic and his emotional-connection capability, using the short-form works of this recital to paint a variegated and strongly felt portrait of the many moods and attitudes brought forth both through the composer’s earlier style and through his later, more-developed one."


South Korean pianist Klara Min studied with James Tocco in Lubeck, and she had a strong New York presence, having founded New York Concert Artists & Associates in 2008. A Schumann acolyte, Min advocates a kind of Davids-League, an artistic union to combat cultural arrogance and ignorance. The music of mystic Alexander Scriabin (rec 13–14 July 2015) obviously appeals to her decidedly Romantic sensibility, here concentrated on the relatively early works of the Russian composer. The Op. 45, No. 1 Scriabin designates as an Album Leaf, and its subtle colors seem to appeal to the composer’s legendary pianissimo effects. Its emotion remains rather elusive. The “Poeme fantastique” No. 2 proffers a nervous scherzando which enjoys the occasional crisp mezzo-forte. The mercurial “Prelude” projects a sad, moody meditation, close to a Russian blues. Min’s pedal effects make the Op. 45 exquisitely inviting.

It was Gina Bachauer whose Capitol LP of the Op. 11 Scriabin Preludes first captured my own imaginative affinity for this composer’s hothouse music. Following Chopin’s own strategy of the circle of fifths, Scriabin composed the set of 24 over eight years (1888–1896), incorporating aspects of Chopin and Liszt into his idiosyncratic syntax. The No. 11 in G Major may well presage our sense that Debussy’s spirit looms nigh. The e minor proves as haunted a text as that of Chopin’s Op. 28, No. 4, tentative and moody.

Though brief, the No. 6 in b minor indicates what stormy power Scriabin commands in concentrate. The A Major could be assigned to Faure’s palette. The f-sharp minor offers a serpentine melody over a left hand figure, rarified Chopin, certainly, but fragile and luminous. The c-sharp minor nods to Rachmaninov in its dark color mood, resolving into the air by slow degrees. Rachmaninov seems to appear twice more, in the muscular c minor—with its potent trill—and at the end of the cycle in d minor, Presto. For subtle, shifting pedal effects, savor Min’s g-sharp minor Prelude, the No. 12. The G-flat Major, on the other hand, evokes aspects of Brahms, especially in the metric shifts under wide-spaced melodic chords. The e-flat minor poses demoniac impulses, moving to a shattering bass coda. The D-flat Major could be a lullaby by Mussorgsky, simple, askew, and provocative. Chopin’s Funeral March informs the b-flat minor Prelude (Misterioso), though the harmonic progression hints at Liszt and Ravel. No. 21, marked Andante in B-flat Major, expresses nocturnal thoughts with diaphanous tenderness. The F Major swims in luxuriant waters Liszt and Debussy would find restorative.

Glenn Gould used to favor the two Pieces for Piano, Op. 57 (1908). No. 1 “Desir” evokes pleasures both tame and forbidden, ending on a non-resolved chord. We move back to a C Major tonality for Caresse dansee, but Scriabin likely makes this a farewell kiss to tradition. The haunted innuendos of the Poeme, Op. 32, No. 1 waft veils into the rarified air, throbbing or shuddering with erotic expectation, “crystalline and perfumed.” The Op. 2, No. 1 that bookends this recital manages to suggest that what has passed is prologue, a passion whose mysteries will remain tantalizing and enigmatic to those who brave this composer’s singular journey.

Fine recorded piano sound, courtesy of Engineer Daniel Shores.

-- Audiophile Audition Read less