“Barefoot” [TrackList follows] = Piano Music of Chopin, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Adams, Hofman, Kupferman, Muczynski, & Wolfgang – Joanne Pearce Martin, p. – Yarlung Records 79580, 68:25 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
The performer on this album, Joanne Pearce Martin, is the keyboard principal of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Even beyond the levels of concert soloists and teachers, I believe an orchestral player needs to have the highest degree of competence and precision. These are truly on display here, but even more evident is Martin’s passion for the full range of piano music.
She begins, as many pianists tend to do, with Chopin (1810 – 1849). The Ballade in G Minor (Opus 23) is a large and difficult work, the first of four he wrote in this form. Joanne Martin handles it with ease. This makes the Mozart (1756 – 1791) Sonata No. 12 in F Major (KV 332) that follows seem like child’s play in comparison, but on careful listening, it certainly is not.
What comes next seems a shock at first – John Adams’ (b. 1947) China Gates, almost six minutes of 20th Century minimalism. But it is very restful and contemplative. Joanne Martin has performed with Mark Carlson (b.1952), founder of the Pacific Serenades chamber music ensemble, and here she performs his For Those Silenced (Adagio espressivo), more like a jazz improvisation than anything else. But since it’s one of seven dances in a set, one wants to hear more.
The Berceuse Opus 20, No. 5 by Josef Hofmann (1876 – 1957) follows. He was a Polish composer and pianist noted for his exceptionally small but strong hands. He was a popular interpreter of Chopin’s music, and Joanne Martin does both of them proud with the light fingering in this lullaby. The pianistic time-travel experienced in this album continues with the work Distances by composer, clarinetist and teacher Meyer Kupferman, with whom Martin had worked in New York.
Two pieces by Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847) are next, the Lied ohne Worte (Andante con moto) Opus 19, No. 1 and the Spinnerlied Opus 46, No. 4. The first is a hymn-like melody that was indeed adapted as a hymn several decades later, and the second a brief but charming fingering exercise. Next, Prelude No.2 Opus 6 by Robert Muczynski (1929 – 2010) is the shortest selection on this album of wide ranges in all selections.
Gernot Wolfgang (b. 1957) is an Austrian-born jazz guitarist and composer, whose work Dave Brubeck described as having “unconventional beauty.’ Here Joanne Martin plays Wolfgang’s Night Shift, an extended jazz tonepoem with several pauses that turn one of the longest pieces on the disc into a contemplation of many moods. As it began, so the recital ends with Chopin, two of his 21 Nocturnes, the first in E-flat (Opus 9, No. 2) from his early 20’s and likely his most famous, and the second in D-flat, (Opus 27, No.2) almost as familiar.
These closing pieces remind us that Joanne Martin has spent most of this album on the softer side of the dynamic range, where she seems most at home. Indeed this whole endeavor seems extremely personal, from the composers she’s selected, and the time she’s spent with each – living and dead – to even the album title – her preferred foot attire, especially during recording (to eliminate pedal noise).
This is Martin’s first project for Yarlung Records, and Producer Bob Attiyeh seems justifiably proud of it. He secured a great piano, installed it in the excellent acoustics of Zipper Hall at Colburn School in Los Angeles, and recorded with a minimum number of the highest-quality components, some of his own creation. And all the Yarlungs are pressed on gold CDs. The result is a disc providing a most pleasurable excursion through three centuries of piano masterpieces.
TrackList:1. Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23 2. Mozart: Sonata No. 12 in F Major, KV332: I
3. Mozart: Sonata No. 12 in F Major, KV332: II 4. Mozart: Sonata No. 12 in F Major, KV332: III 5. Adams: China Gates 6. Carlson: For those Silenced 7. Hofmann: Berceuse Op. 20, No. 5 8. Kupferman: Distances 9. Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words No. 1, Op. 19 10. Mendelssohn: Spinning Song Opus 67, No. 4 11. Muczynski: Prelude No. 2, Op. 6 12. Wolfgang: Night Shift 13. Chopin: Nocturne in E flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2 14. Chopin: Nocturne in D flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2