Shen Lu

Watercolor

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From Steinway & Sons' growing catalog of personal and beautifully recorded piano recitals comes this one from Chinese pianist Shen Lu, whose training includes stints in Beijing, Boston, and Cleveland. Chinese musicians are said to be seeking out American teachers as a way of adding freedom and originality to their thinking, and that seems to be what's happening here. Some might find more crackling versions of, say, Ravel's Miroirs than the one delivered here by Shen, but it fits in with the rest of the program in a way that keeps listeners absorbed to a degree than another instance of mechanistic virtuosity might not. The program maintains a theme of "impressionistic" depiction, filtering it through the East/West divide and through subdivisions of each. It's nice to compare the technically similar but emotionally quite different depictions of rippling water in Chen Peixun's folk-based Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake (track 1) and Une barque sur l'océan of Ravel (track 4). The unusual work here is the set of Eight Memories in Watercolor, Op. 1, of Tan Dun, written just as China was reopening to the West after the Cultural Revolution. Rachmaninov's rather Russian-flavored Etudes Tableaux, Op. 33, are arguably more exotic to Western ears than Tan Dun's mood-oriented landscape miniatures. They're quite different from what those familiar with Tan Dun's large orchestral canvases might expect, but their concision pointed the way to the composer's future success. Chinese music has reached a point where listeners worldwide can follow the course of a composer's career as they do with those in the West, and that's just one of the intriguing features of this enjoyable culture-crossing release.

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