Nadia Shpachenko

Woman at the New Piano: American Music of 2013

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The deadly American Music of 2013 subtitle may convey the idea that this is a dutiful anthology of academic pieces, but nothing could be further from the truth. Pianist Nadia Shpachenko took the erroneous Mayan apocalypse predictions of 2012 as a starting point, posited a new era of pianism beginning the following year, commissioned new works from four composers, and worked closely with them on the works' genesis. The result is a set of four pieces that seem tied together even though the styles of the four composers are quite different from one another. The common element, perhaps, is the humor implicit in the overall concept. Tom Flaherty's Airdancing is written for the unusual combination of piano, toy piano, and electronics, with the toy piano in the unlikely role of mediator between the pianistic and electronic realms; and the same composer's Part Suite-a gently spoofs Baroque idioms. Peter Yates' Finger Songs are lightly jazz- and blues-infused pieces that take up where Debussy and Ravel left off. The Picture Etudes of Adam Schoenberg (apparently no relation to either Arnold or Claude-Michel) developed out of a different commission, one for a contemporary Pictures at an Exhibition, and each is evocative of the style of a different modern artist. Schoenberg's Bounce is a playful romp inspired by children's antics. The Cretic Variations of James Matheson are weightier but do not disturb the basic continuity. Reference Recordings' engineering work at Pomona College is excellent, and Shpachenko's involvement in the music does not cloud her accurate playing. Recommended.

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