Taiwanese-Austrian-American pianist Jenny Lin has a flair for unusual programs, and so it is here even though the material at first seems conventional. Yes, this is one collection of nocturnes or night pieces among many on the market. But Lin titles the album Night Stories, and she delivers not a collection of mood pieces but a survey of what the idea of night has meant musically. As if to emphasize her intention, Lin frames the program with perhaps the two most familiar night pieces of all, Debussy's Clair de lune and Liszt's Nocturne No. 3 ("Liebestraum"). After the Debussy come Romantic pieces of various kinds, with Chopin effectively placed in the middle so as to show just how radical his treatment of this salon form really was. The second half of the program features music from the early 20th century and carries psychological overtones, bringing some delighful and largely forgotten pieces like Arthur Lourié's A Phoenix Park Nocturne and Charles Tomlinson Griffes' The Night Winds. A contemporary piece might have added zest to the program, but Lin deserves plenty of credit for defining a musical space and then filling it up. Her tone is initially more forceful than expected for this kind of music, but this is a performer with a vision original enough to bring listeners along for the ride. Hänssler Classics' engineering work, at Virginia's Sono Luminus studio, supports the artist's aims beautifully.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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