Piano Music of Salonen, Stucky & Lutoslawski

Piano Music of Salonen, Stucky & Lutoslawski

by Gloria Cheng
     
 

Although the extraordinary artistry of pianist Gloria Cheng has an international reach, in a purely professional sense she is strongly connected to Los Angeles; Cheng teaches at UCLA and frequently appears as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This body is famously directed by a self-professed composer who also works as conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, who led,… See more details below

Overview

Although the extraordinary artistry of pianist Gloria Cheng has an international reach, in a purely professional sense she is strongly connected to Los Angeles; Cheng teaches at UCLA and frequently appears as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This body is famously directed by a self-professed composer who also works as conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, who led, in Los Angeles, some of the last concerts devoted to Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski while he lived. The first book in English devoted to Lutoslawski was written by composer Steven Stucky who, although based at Cornell University, is a close friend of Salonen's. Pull together these slight degrees of separation and you have Telarc's remarkable Gloria Cheng: Piano Music of Salonen, Stucky, and Lutoslawski. None of the composers on the program is particularly noted for production of keyboard music, and both Salonen and Stucky are professed non-players. Lutoslawski, however, played the piano well, and in his youth his "Piano Sonata" (1934) was his signature piece. Over time, though, Lutoslawski's enthusiasm about it cooled owing to a perceived snub from composer Karol Szymanowski and other factors. Lutoslawski ultimately forbade performances of this work, and it didn't appear in published form until 2006; this is its first authorized recording. It demonstrates the 21-year-old Lutoslawski's early enthusiasm for French music and even betrays some amount of modeling after Ravel's "Sonatine." Running nearly half an hour, it is unusual to encounter, in 2008, a work of major proportions from a key twentieth century composer that no one has touched before, and the sheer sense of discovery makes the heart palpitate. Cheng's knowing and fluidizing approach propels Lutoslawski's efficient craft like liquid mercury driving a bolt of electricity. A French accent also informs Steven Stucky's "Four Album Leaves" (2002) as well, although the slight form of these pieces refers to the albumblätter of German romantics. Nevertheless, the first three pieces are reminiscent of Messiaen, with the last sort of like the clustery harmony of Henry Cowell meeting a fugitive vision of Prokofiev. Stucky's "Three Little Variations for David" (2001), based on "Happy Birthday," are even tinier than the album leaves. Stucky contributes useful, well-written, and informative liners to this disc. The balance of the program is given to Salonen, who, like Stucky, turns to the piano "as a laboratory for testing materials that might then migrate to other surroundings." Static electricity seems to be what Salonen is testing in his early "Yta II" (1985), an icy, slippery piece that is like running in place on ice skates. "Dichotomie" (2000) is a major work, its motoric "Mécanisme" and more fluid "Organisme" approaching the futuristic and impressionistic, respectively, however remaining original in style and bereft of reference or nostalgia. Salonen's "Three Preludes" (2005) demonstrate an increased consciousness of piano technique, including virtuoso passagework and some degree of near romantic expressiveness, a world away from "Yta II." Cheng's tremendous agility, endurance, and strength make this music not only possible, but enjoyable; what might seem to some like a typical scary exercise in contemporary music becomes a first-class listening experience for even the uninitiated, simply because Cheng puts it over so well. She is handily assisted by Telarc's great sound, sensitive to every sound that comes out of the instrument yet bathed in a warm ambience in which all elements are clear and direct. Gloria Cheng: Piano Music of Salonen, Stucky and Lutoslawski is not only a first-tier recital of contemporary music, but it restores one's faith in living composers' ability to communicate, while retaining some vestige of the visionary, and as such it is very highly recommended.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times - Anthony Tommasini
Consistently exhilarating. It’s not just that Ms. Cheng plays these daunting pieces with such commanding technique, color and imagination. She has brought together works that fascinatingly complement one another.
Gramophone - Richard Whitehouse
A disc that no one interested in modern piano music should pass over.
Time Out New York - Daniel Felsenfeld
The real star of the record is Cheng, who handles this daunting stuff with such humble precision and so wide a range of hues that it hardly feels "modern".... Like any virtuoso, she makes it seem easy -- the hardest thing for a performer to do.
San Francisco Chronicle - Joshua Kosman
This ravishing collectio...finds [Cheng] at her most incisive. The programming is brilliantly thematic, collecting a number of splendid works that blend a hard-edged modernist sensibility with the rapturous pictorialism of Debussy.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/22/2008
Label:
Telarc
UPC:
0089408071225
catalogNumber:
80712
Rank:
126106

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Album Leaves (4), for piano

    • Steven Stucky
    1. Contemplativo, tempo rubato  (02:56)
    2. Meccanico  (01:12)
    3. Sereno, luminoso  (02:05)
    4. Presto giocoso  (01:38)
  2. Piano Sonata

    • Witold Lutoslawski
    • Anilda Carrasquillo
    • Gloria Cheng
    • Robert Woods
    1. Allegro  (10:31)
    2. Adagio ma non troppo  (07:40)
    3. Andante - Allegretto  (08:30)
  3. YTA II, for piano  - Esa-Pekka Salonen  - Anilda Carrasquillo  - Gloria Cheng  -  Robert Woods  (06:54)
  4. Preludes (3), for piano

    • Esa-Pekka Salonen
    1. Libellula Meccanica  (03:29)
    2. Chorale  (03:03)
    3. Invenzione a due voci  (02:34)
  5. Dichotomie, for piano

    • Esa-Pekka Salonen
    1. Mécanisme  (09:23)
    2. Organisme  (08:00)
  6. Little Variations (3) for David, for piano

    • Steven Stucky
    1. Giocoso  (00:55)
    2. Sognando  (01:52)
    3. Molto vivo  (00:43)

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