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5 minutes reading time (993 words)

January/February 2019: Recordings

Mendelssohn's chamber works are musical conversations of supreme sophistication. Artymiw and Rosen offer a captivating recording of the composer's complete works for cello and piano, and their impressive virtuosity ensures that every line carries sufficient weight and interest to keep the listener engaged. The performance of Variations Concertantes, Op. 17, for example, is dramatic, rich, and refined, and the Lied ohne Worte and Assai tranquillo are interpreted sensitively. The fast movements in both sonatas are exuberant and adrenalin-pumping, yet balanced between galvanizing rhythm and lyrical phrases. On the other hand, the exquisite slow movements convey all the yearning one expects. Further, in the Adagio of the second sonata, Artymiw's arpeggiated chords create an organ sound effect that echoes with Rosen's expressive playing; this combination of chorale and recitative re- minds us of Mendelssohn's respect for Bach. Throughout, Artymiw and Rosen play as a tight ensemble, and invite the listener to hear these familiar works anew.

—Wei Chen (Bruce) Lin 

Featuring fourteen early twentieth-century works by female composers, this album title alludes to an insult thrown at suffragists during the fight for a woman's right to vote, while depicting the transition from the repressive Victorian era to a time of increasing equality for women. The pieces showcase the virtuosic flair of Florence Price's Fantasie negre, the lyricism of Mary Howe's Berceuse, the coloristic chromaticism of Ethel Hier's Pavilion Nocturne, the eloquence of Amy Beach's two Hermit Thrush pieces, and the jaunty rhythms of ragtime, polka, and vaudeville. Equally compelling are the composers' life stories, including that of an African-American from Arkansas, an upper-crust prodigy from New England, and a ragtime musician from Indianapolis; both long- term and short-lived careers; of the fight for equality in the music profession; and of composers lauded in life but obscure in death. Goldstein exploits this richness with stylistic sensitivity and sound technique. Perhaps future projects could involve large works, but, in the meantime, these miniatures are gems.

—Charisse Baldoria 

This delightful recording is the duo's first on the Delphian Records label. A highlight is the performance of Rachmaninoff's Six morceaux, Op. 11. Hill and Frith's playing is riveting, and the two bring electric energy to a suite which is often too intimate and slow. Because Stravinsky's Petrushka is most often performed in its daunting solo version, the four-hand performance on this recording is much appreciated. In it, Hill and Frith exhibit excellent technical facility in a colorful presentation of this important work. Tchaikovsky's Fifty Russian Folk Songs rounds out the disc, providing a useful compendium for teacher and student alike. The quality of the recording is exceptional, and especially beneficial are the program notes describing the connections between folk songs and these Russian compositions. Highly recommended.

—Kristín Taylor 

Granados's works, especially Goyescas, are perennial favorites. And, as evidenced by the way she navigates the keys in this recording, Xiayin Wang is a virtuoso powerhouse. Compared, however, to Alicia de Larrocha's landmark recording of the piece, Wang's performance could be lighter, with less pedal. Further—and the problem may be the hall where the CD was recorded—the sound is saturated and heavy. More careful pedaling overall would emphasize the rhythmic pulsations (even with generous rubato, de Larrocha never lost the pulse). Though "Los requiebros" is finely played, it is too saccharine; as a result, the switch between themes is not as effective as it could be. The rapid Zapateado is beautifully played, and the lovely Ochos valses poéticos is a delight to hear. Wang plays the latter with perfect timing, the right amount of playfulness, and appropriate articulation. The flawless technical passages and well-timed rubato of Allegro de concierto complete the recording.

– Sang Woo Kang 

Gershwin's Concerto in F might seem like an unusual companion to Ravel's two concerti. Ravel's jazz-inflected Piano Concerto in G Major, however, undeniably bears Gershwin's influence, and it is fascinating to hear the two concerti side by side. Overall, the playing of soloist with orchestra is admirable, if slightly underwhelming. Tempi are a little cautious, and glitzy virtuosic passages (notably in the Gershwin) seem calculated rather than spontaneous. Nonetheless, the recording is nicely balanced, so the soloist is almost always audible. In addition, Yamada emphasizes instrumental details within textures that are not always apparent in other recordings. Kozhukhin shows himself to be a refined and accomplished pianist who is unafraid to play with freedom, and he takes time to play expressively. The compelling performance of the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand is the highlight of the CD, while the other two works require more verve and abandon to be wholly convincing.

—Stephen Pierce 

This Issue's Contributors:

Nicholas Phillips is Recordings Editor for Clavier Companion and Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. He has performed in solo recitals across the United States and abroad, is an active recording artist, and is a regular presenter at national and international conferences.

Charisse Baldoria is a pianist who explores the piano's role in intercultural exchange. She has per- formed on five continents and is currently Associate Professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

Stephen Pierce is Associate Professor of Piano at the University of Southern California. He has performed in the Czech Republic, Canada, the United States, and South Africa, and is editor of CAPMT Connect.

Sang Woo Kang performs and teaches as a soloist and chamber musician throughout Asia and the Unit- ed States. Currently he serves as Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Music at Providence College, RI.

Wei Chen (Bruce) Lin is Assistant Professor of Piano at Texas Lutheran University. He has performed and adjudicated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Taiwan. Recently, he made his debut with the American Wind Symphony Orchestra.

Kristín Jónína Taylor is Assistant Professor of Piano at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She performs regularly throughout the U.S. and Europe as a solo pianist as well as with the Atlantic Piano Duo. 

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January/February 2019: New Music Reviews
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Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

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