After sixteen years of exceptional achievement and vast critical acclaim, the career paths of the members of The Florestan Trio are diverging. Sadly, the trio will disband at the end of this year and this disc marks the end of their studio career. For their final recording, the trio performs an all- Shostakovich program comprising the two piano trios and the Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok, for which they are joined by soprano Susan Gritton. Written in 1923, the first trio was an astonishing achievement for a seventeen-year-old student.
The Shostakovich concerto is a good choice, not just as a near contemporary of the Paganini Rhapsody, but as a bridge to the zany world of Lutoslawski. It receives a fluent, well-judged and idiomatic performance with every note in place and some lovely trumpet playing from Raymond Simmons.
John Cage: Early Piano Music comes from Herbert Henck, an experienced hand with the work of Cage, having previously recorded Music for Piano, Music of Changes, and Sonatas and Interludes in addition to a mighty swath of first-tier twentieth-century literature for piano for various labels, most notably Wergo and ECM New Series. These are early works for standard, not prepared, piano, and some of these pieces will be as familiar to dyed-in-the-wool Cageans as "Happy Birthday." This puts the pressure on Henck to excel, and he does so spectacularly well here. The disc includes the two sets entitled Two Pieces for Piano, the piano version of The Seasons, Metamorphosis, In a Landscape, Ophelia, and the fragmentary Quest. The pieces date from 1935 to 1948, the same range covered by pianist Jeanne Kirstein in her pioneering 1967 survey of Cage's piano music for CBS Masterworks.
At last, a re-issue of the 1963 recording of Cowell playing several of his piano works in his casual style, so that the listener regards the unusual sounds and techniques as completely natural within the context of each piece's imagery. A recording of the complete piano works is definitely needed, but this CD, with Cowell's spoken commentary at the end, is a precious thing to have at the moment.
This recording showcases both the rich variety and the sonic surprises to be heard in contemporary Chinese piano music. Myth and landscape loom large. Pulitzer Prize-winner Zhou Long’s Pianobells takes legend as its inspiration in an evocation of sonorous bells borne on the wind. For Doming Lam the goal is reinterpreting Chinese ancient melodies and imitating gongs and drums to evoke the atmosphere of Chinese opera. For Grammy Award winner Tan Dun, his Eight Memories are a ‘diary of longing’ – musical watercolours inspired by folk music.