by Steven Turpin: Classical Music Coordinator/Morning Musicale Host, Indiana Public Radio
I cannot recall ever having spent a more enjoyable hour with music than I did listening to Images of a Homeland, Marjan Kiepura's all-Chopin CD. Fourteen of the twenty pieces on the recording are mazurkas, wherein "the distinctive flavor and style of what has become known as the 'Polishness' that we hear in his music, was created." Kiepura's generous sampling includes items from virtually every collection of mazurkas Chopin wrote, early and late. I was delighted by the variety within this genre: the surprising dissonances of Op. 7 no. 1 (B-flat major) , the Schumannesque fanfare of the opening of Op. 68 no. 3 (F major), the haunting chromatic melody of Op. 33 no. 4 (B minor, at 5 1/2 minutes the longest example here), and the sweet-sad teasing of Op. 68 no. 2 (A minor).
The balance of the twenty tracks is made up of deservedly familiar items from other genres. One of the three waltzes included is the beautiful Op. 69 no. 1 ("L'Adieu" in A-flat major). Regrettably, Kiepura treats us to only one nocturne, the lovely Op. 9 no. 2 (E flat major). Likewise, the single prelude ("Raindrop" in D-flat) I found to be played with transcendent beauty. My sole quibble was with the occasional lengthening in the "Military" polonaise which surprised me , accustomed as I am to a rather metronomic reading by Rubinstein. Throughout the recording, Kiepura's rubato is consistently tasteful, never self-indulgent.
The Steinway piano is recorded closely but very cleanly, yielding a clear, at times bell-like, tone that did not weary over the course of the hour. The artist has included excellent, detailed notes in a beautiful booklet. Images of a Homeland is a delight, revealing treasures at each hearing.