RECORDINGS & EVENTS A special eight-page section for readers in the US and Canada talks to... Joel Fan The pianist talks repertoire, technique, instruments…and race cars The most obscure piece on your dance- themed disc is Cadman’s Dark Dancers of the Mardi Gras – tell us a bit about it... Cadman was a prolific composer based in Pittsburgh and LA who helped found the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He was also known for introducing elements of ragtime into his music. Dark Dancers is a blast to play. As the soloist, you’re riding this wave of rhythm, sound and texture created by the orchestra; there’s this huge instrumentation and such a stirring finish.
Gottschalk’s Grande Tarantelle is something of a rarity too – what’s the story of the ‘reconstruction’ you’ve recorded? The piece is originally for solo piano, but Gottschalk would arrange many of his pieces for different ensembles. His orchestration of the Grande Tarantelle was lost, so the composer and orchestrator Hershy Kay (he who orchestrated Bernstein’s On the Town) made this orchestration. It became really well known when George Balanchine used it for his ballet Tarantella.
Can you sense the national characteristics in these pieces – the Gallic in Saint-Saëns, the Slavic in the Chopin?
Definitely. The Saint-Saëns Wedding Cake is so bubbly and elegant, like the fizz in a glass of champagne. The Chopin Krakowiak uses one of the national dances of Poland; you can just picture the dance and all its syncopations in your head when you hear the main theme. There’s still that French effervescence in the Pierné but also a sense of visceral excitement too as he ventures through the materials; his work has more ‘edge’ than the SaintSaëns. Then in the Castro Herrera you have a Mexican composer who writes at the turn of the century as if he were Liszt, with all of the virtuoso flourishes and octaves. It might not have a particular Mexican influence but it reminds you that dancing is universal – you can dance to a waltz in any country.
All those runs in Saint-Saëns’s Valse-caprice sound effortlessly smooth – is that just practice, practice, practice? There’s truly no substitute for practice. Piano technique requires daily care – and then there are all the things you need to do to make music meaningful and emotionally impactful. As musicians you’re constantly working on your technique so it can better serve your needs to express what you play. It’s like you need to be both the race car driver and the mechanic – making sure that the machine is capable of whatever twists and turns the mind desires.
So what race car do you have? Tell us about the instrument you used here… There were actually two Steinway Ds available for the sessions, one that was shiny and brighter, while the other was older, mellower, less even, and not thought of as highly. But once we got to know the older Steinway, it proved to be a marvellous instrument, with plenty of colour and firepower, and also with all the overtones from the bass that are so unique to each Steinway. I’m always looking for instruments that are unusual and have idiosyncrasies, as exploring familiar music on different instruments is such a rewarding experience – it can bring unexpected discoveries in the music to light.
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Cage Sonatas and Interludes. In a Landscapea Kate Boyd pf Navona F NV5984 (74’ • DDD) a Recorded live
By the time the 20 tracks of John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes wind up,
it’s like hearing the return of the Aria in Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Even if you had gramophone.co.uk not kept up with all the individual parts, you know that something big and beautiful has happened. It’s hard to know what Cage would have made of there now being 15 recordings of his seminal work for prepared piano, plus whatever’s on YouTube. He would have liked the variety but might have worried about the dangers of repetitively listening to fixed versions of music that was meant to change at each re‑performance.
In order to introduce some change in my review, I listened to this new recording – which was made in audiophile Eidson‑
Duckwall Hall at Butler University, Indianapolis – on a variety of desktop and mobile devices, with earphones and with conventional and computer speakers. The effect each time was different, always surprising me with the sheer physical beauty of the sounds and silences being created. Since there was no predictability to what would catch my ear each time through, I was always curious to listen more.
The one constant was Kate Boyd’s restrained, curious and positive playing, with the touch of a child approaching some
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