John Allison
BBC Music Magazine
September 2016

Four years on since he won Canada's Honens International Piano Competition, the world's biggest piano prize, Pavel Kolesnikov continues to show the quiet intensity that distinguishes his playing from that of many competition contestants. Now onto his second recording for Hyperion—his first, featuring Tchaikovsky's The Seasons flowed with similar naturalness—he displays complete poetic freedom of a sort ideal for approaching Chopin's mazurkas. By opening this recital with Op 50 No 5, in A flat, he makes a perhaps deliberately unobtrusive statement, entering into the music's spirit with crisp rhythms that are never overly emphatic. It's tempting to say that he plays this quintessential Polish music with a flexibility rare among Russians but then Kolesnikov is the antithesis of the Russian bear school of pianism.

He has his own thoughts about their order, too, eschewing opus-number groupings in favour of a selection (almost half the published mazurkas) that makes its own satisfying tonal sense. The wonderful Op 17, 24 and 50 sets are heard complete, if scattered around, and even out of chronological order the place of these pieces within Chopin's output is immediately evident. Kolesnikov can be shy or fiery in tracing the folk-dance roots of this music; more unusually, he also finds its sophistication. A refreshing way of letting us hear these well-known miniature masterpieces, this is a notable addition to the huge Chopin discography.