Korean-American composer Beata Moon is something of a phenomenon; although she studied piano at Juilliard, she is a self-taught composer who follows her own rules and composes to personal preferences rather than to fulfill grants or commissions. Perigee and Apogee is her first disc, released in 2000, and the nine pieces featured on it are as different from one another as a perigee is from an apogee. However, you can feel the same spiritual force driving behind all of them, more analogous to the relationship of a parent and her nine children rather than, perhaps, a composer with a program of nine works. Safari (2000) is a suitably appropriate plunge into a mysterious and exotic jungle scene, peppered with tasty little rhythmic figures on the marimba; Antelope Vamp (1996) is related to it, but quite different -- perhaps rather than ranging the African savanna this antelope lives in California. The Piano Fantasy (1998), played by Moon, is a gracious and optimistic solo that evokes the mood of minimalism without indulging in minimalistic devices; Winter Sky (1996) is the only piece on the disc that can be described as sounding vaguely "Asian," a free-floating fantasia for the violin that is penetrating in its emotional content, yet atmospheric and evocative. Vocalist Joan La Barbara guests on the wordless vocalise "Mary" (1996), the opening movement of the piano suite In Transit (1999) is reminiscent of Mussorgsky, Raymond Scott, and Abram Chasins (of Rush Hour in Hong Kong fame) getting tied up in a traffic jam.
Moon's piano is at the center of the recital as a whole. The compositions -- utilizing additional instrumentalists such as violinist Tom Chiu and marimbist Makoto Nakura -- tend to flow from the piano in this instance, but this aspect tends to marry the program as opposed to raising the spectre of the chauvinistic view that "she can't seem to write away from the piano." On the contrary, in Perigee and Apogee, Beata Moon seems to have achieved something classical composers can almost never do: compile a CD collection out of separate pieces that is as satisfying as a coherent album. Add to that the strong flavor of inspiration and originality that fuels her work -- the development of musical ideas that support the finished outcome, rather than the other way around -- and you have the sparkling combination of ingeniousness that typifies Beata Moon's Perigee and Apogee.