PROKOFIEV and ZABOROV: Piano Works – Jenny Lin (p.) Steinway & Sons

PROKOFIEV: Pieces from Cinderella – Pieces for Piano – ZABOROV: Nine Variations on the theme by Dmitri Shostakovich – Variations for piano “Quattrocento” – Ten Apparitions – Suite for Piano “Entrelacs” – Jenny Lin, piano, Steinway & Sons 30055, 62:56, *****

Classic and modern Russian piano scores, played with intelligence and verve

This is the sixth CD of a superb series of recordings on the Steinway & Sons label by the Taiwan born and Austrian raised pianist Jenny Lin. She began her piano studies at age four in Vienna and at age 10 entered the Hochschule für Musik. She came to the United States at age 14 and graduated from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1998. Lin has studied with Leon Fleisher and Richard Goode and lives in New York City where she teaches at the 92nd Street Y.  Her recording of Stravinsky solo piano works and the album Get Happy (show tunes for piano) demonstrate her proficiency in diverse repertoire. She plays with virtuosity and musical intelligence, and has a unique ability to express the music’s emotional essence. Steinway and Sons has provided her with the most authentic piano sound that I’ve heard in a long time.

This album juxtaposes two works of Prokofiev – the early Four pieces for piano, op.4 (1908) and Six Pieces, Op. 102 of selections from his ballet Cinderella with short pieces written between 2011 and 2012 by the contemporary Franco Russian composer Kirill Zaborov (b. 1970). Born in Minsk, Belarus, Zaborov moved to France at age 11. He studied as a pianist and jazz drummer and from 1994-98 he formed several bands, composing and playing in jazz clubs. At the same time he wrote classical works for piano and string quartet, music for documentary films and multi-media concerts. In his program notes for this CD, Zaborov writes, “In its stylistic expression my music is partially inspired by twentieth-century Russian tradition, a legacy whose spiritual depth constantly nourishes my imagination with crucial aspects of its mysterious essence.” The works here are homages to that tradition.

Zaborov’s music here are all miniatures that tend to merge together into one long suite of works that are both modern and melodic in their contrapuntal ingenuity. In Nine Variations on the theme by Dmitri Shostakovich he uses an accompaniment to a hymn Shostakovich wrote in 1932. Each variation represents an emotional aspect of his grandfather’s life. It’s lovely music filled with emotion, sorrow and fond remembrances. The Variations for piano “Quattrocento” are pleasant miniatures that might appear in a lounge concert, each with a classical title, “whether ephemeral adagios or passionate outbursts.”

Ten Apparitions fly by the ear as brief but ingratiating allusions to rhythm and atmosphere, “like a travel diary in which are recorded, as in a fleeting breath, our most intimate thoughts and passions,” the composer explains. Suite for Piano:Entrelacs” are somber and contemplative. Lin’s animated and dynamic pianism makes these miniatures come alive.

Prokofiev’s early (1908) Four pieces for piano, op. 4 established him as a composer and pianist not afraid of bold dissonances juxtaposed next to moments of quietude and “hammered rhythms.” Lin’s virtuosity shines in these strikingly different movements. Prokofiev dedicated his ballet Cinderella to Tchaikovsky, emphasizing the “poetic love of Cinderella for the Prince, the birth and flowering of that love, the obstacles it encountered, and, finally the fulfillment of a dream.” In the Six Pieces from Cinderella, Op. 102, the composer chose to express the different aspects of the development of the love affair (waltzes, quarrel and Amoroso) in romantic, classical and modern musical language. Lin’s playing expresses every nuance of the musical story. This is intelligent piano playing of enormous verve and emotional range.

—Robert Moon

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