Kotar Fukuma: Chopin Legacy
In the main, Kotaro Fukuma’s Chopin Preludes abound in brute force yet lack poetry. He lays on No 2’s left-hand dissonances to a fault, overpowering the desolate right-hand melody, and makes heavy weather out of No 3’s supple runs. No 5 is just plain loud, with little awareness of the music’s cross-rhythmic interplay. Virtuoso preludes such as Nos 8, 12, 22 and 24 become texturally muddy in their loudest moments, although Fukuma brings plenty of bravura and imagination to No 16. By contrast, the lyrical preludes never quite sing out to their fullest potential and seem relatively held back.
Fukuma’s Berceuse passes three of the ‘four Cs’, meaning that it’s clear, clean and conscientious. But not the fourth C, caressing, on account of the pianist’s square phrasing. Following an inconsequential filler in the form of the G major Contradanse, Fukuma briskly plunges into the B minor Sonata, confidently devouring the pianistic patterns and leaving much of the contrapuntal logic undefined. The Scherzo’s outer sections suggest pellets rather than butterflies, although Fukuma shapes the Trio’s conversational lines with sensitivity. The Largo is steady and straight in Fukuma’s hands, yet one suspects that he’s keeping his expressive impulses in check; shouldn’t the central episode’s triplets sing out more freely? By contrast, the finale’s soaring long lines and inherent dramatic build go out of the window due to Fukama’s choppy, sectionalised phrasing and gauche accents (the main theme, for example). In light of Fukuma’s superb Takemitsu and Schumann discs for Naxos and his equally commendable Chopin Ballades for Denon, this release disappoints.