Grace Nikae


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Fantasies as a form -- if you can even call them a form -- offer performers an exceptional amount of freedom and license in most aspects of their performance. Tempo, rubato, dynamics, and even pedaling (in the case of the piano) are all essentially up for grabs. Like anything else in life, though, there can be too much of a good thing. This is precisely the problem pianist Grace Nikae runs into with her debut album of Fantasies by Scriabin, Granados, de Falla, and Liszt. In an apparent effort to make her performances more "fantastical," Nikae forces far too much rubato and tempo variation into each and every measure of her playing. So altered are her rhythms most listeners would be at a complete loss to discern the meter of the piece, let alone the actual rhythm printed in the score. There's also a lack of differentiation between the vastly different music of these four composers; the Granados and de Falla works sound no more Spanish than Scriabin or Liszt. Add to this the fact that the overall recorded sound quality of her performance is muddy and indistinct toward the middle range of the instrument and the result is an album that is probably just as well passed up.

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