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Twelfth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition - Chen


Release Date: 10/11/2005 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 907406   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frédéric ChopinMaurice RavelSebastian CurrierFranz Liszt,   ... 
Performer:  Sa Chen
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Pianist Sa Chen won the Crystal Award (third prize) in the 12th Van Cliburn International Competition, where the live performances included on this disc were recorded. You don't get this far in a competition without proving your technical mettle, and not only does Chen have fingers, but also her fingers have brains. She gives an assured and secure performance of Chopin's B minor sonata, cogently organizing the composer's polyphonic underbrush in the first movement. At the return of the Scherzo's "A" section, Chen adopts a slightly slower tempo than the one with which she began. Notwithstanding some misgauged dynamics and tiny moments of over-pedaling (this is live and unspliced, remember), Chen's flexible and texturally diverse Read more treatment of the Largo is one of the few that successfully masks the music's tendency to ramble. She launches into the finale faster than the more moderate and rock-steady tempo she adopts for the movement's remainder, replete with probing bass lines and inner voices that belie Wagner's accusation of Chopin being a "right-hand" composer.

In Gaspard de la nuit a cruelly exposed wrong note at the start of Ondine's climactic contrary-motion arpeggios is a small price to pay for Chen's brisk fluency elsewhere in the opening movement. She happily avoids dragging Le Gibet in the manner of many pianists today who mistake it for a Bruckner Adagio, and she maintains the tolling B-flats in perfect dynamic perspective to their polytextural surroundings. Her Scarbo may not stab and scorch like Argerich or Pogorelich, but that she survives her insanely fast tempo without getting stabbed and scorched is basis enough to make it to this (or any) competition's finals!

Sebastian Currier's cleverly wrought Scarlatti Cadences + Brainstorm joins two pieces: the first dresses up Scarlatti-esque scales and patterns in natty Leonard Bernstein duds, while the second updates elements of Scarbo. The piece obviously suits Chen's outgoing side, and I can't imagine that Currier would be less than ecstatic over her performance. Liszt's Spanish Rhapsody dashes from the starting gate and barely lets up in Chen's hands, although I feel that her clipped articulation and tendency to rush trivializes the unity others achieve with more tightly-knit tempo relationships between sections. She plays the concluding Stravinsky Etude perfectly, but her brittle-toned, machine-like drive pales next to Paul Jacobs' deeper musicality and finer-grained technique. Quibbles aside, Sa Chen is an interesting pianist whom I hope to hear again soon, either live or on disc.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Piano no 3 in B minor, B 155/Op. 58 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Sa Chen (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844; Paris, France 
Venue:  Live  Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas 
Length: 26 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Notes: Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas (05/20/2005 - 06/05/2005) 
2.
Gaspard de la nuit by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Sa Chen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; France 
Venue:  Live  Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas 
Length: 22 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Notes: Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas (05/20/2005 - 06/05/2005) 
3.
Scarlatti Cadences by Sebastian Currier
Performer:  Sa Chen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; USA 
Venue:  Live  Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas 
Length: 5 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Notes: Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas (05/20/2005 - 06/05/2005) 
4.
Brainstorm by Sebastian Currier
Performer:  Sa Chen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994 
Venue:  Live  Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas 
Length: 4 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Notes: Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas (05/20/2005 - 06/05/2005) 
5.
Rhapsodie espagnole for Piano, S 254 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Sa Chen (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1863; Rome, Italy 
Venue:  Live  Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas 
Length: 12 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Notes: Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas (05/20/2005 - 06/05/2005) 
6.
Etudes (4) for Piano, Op. 7: no 4, Vivo by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Sa Chen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; Russia 
Venue:  Live  Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas 
Length: 2 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Notes: Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas (05/20/2005 - 06/05/2005) 

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