Notes and Editorial Reviews
"The headnote for the...album, titled
, obscures the novel and extremely clever program pianist Albert Tiu has put together for this disc. As a space-saving practice,
header guidelines require that we gather all of the works by a given composer so that the composer’s name need only be printed once, regardless of how the works are distributed on the disc. If the header for the current CD reflected the actual order of the tracks, you would see that Tiu’s program is made up of binary pairs in which a piece by Chopin is followed by a piece by Scriabin, each pair being of the same musical
genre and generally in the same key. So, for example, Chopin’s “Butterfly” Etude in G?-Major is followed on the very next track by Scriabin’s “Mosquito” Etude in F?-Major, G?-Major and F?-Major being enharmonically equivalent to the same key. A Chopin Waltz in A? is followed by a Scriabin Waltz in A?, and so on.
But Tiu’s scheme is even more cunning. He opens his program with a piece by Scriabin—the Sonata-Fantasy in G?-Minor—and closes it with a piece by Chopin—the Polonaise-Fantaisie in A?-Major (G? and A? again being enharmonic equivalences), thus enclosing the inner Chopin-Scriabin binary pairs within an outer bracketed pair and framing the entire recital between facing mirrors. At the very center of the program lies the Chopin Fantasy in F Minor mated to the Scriabin Fantasy in B Minor, the relationship between F and B being the sinister, shape-shifting
diabolus in musica
of the Middle Ages, the tritone that can take the form of an augmented fourth or a diminished fifth. This key relationship, appearing as it does at the midpoint of the program, functions as the fulcrum for what is, in effect, a recital that takes the form of a mirroring arch. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a program designed in such a mathematical way, and it was certainly no accident.
From prior reviews, readers will know that I have difficulty surrendering to Scriabin. My resistance is part conscious—knowing that the guy was, at the very least, a tick or two past 10 on the eccentricity clock—and part unconscious—emotionally, I just can’t seem to respond to the music—but if anyone can overcome my lack of enthusiasm, it’s Albert Tiu. Maybe it’s because I’m not familiar with these specific pieces, but this is the first time I can honestly say that anything I’ve heard by Scriabin has engaged me on an emotional level. Tiu, of course, must take a great deal of the credit for that. It’s hard to describe how beautifully he plays. The sense of intimacy he brings to a piece like the composer’s Waltz in A?, the yearning he brings to the D?-Nocturne that makes you wish it would never end, and the singing lyricism and virtuosic fireworks he draws from one of the most gorgeous Chopinesque works Chopin never wrote, the Sonata-Fantasy in G?-Minor—all are testament to one of the most sensitive and, needless to say, technically accomplished young pianists on today’s scene.
What Tiu does for Chopin is equally magical. In 59 seconds the peacock of the insect world in the composer’s “Butterfly” Etude fans its multicolored wings, alights on a petal, and in the blink of an eye is borne off on a breeze. Scriabin’s “Mosquito” Etude that follows is only five seconds longer, and it’s just so cute, it’s the first such pest you might want to adopt as a pet.
Centaur has produced, in my opinion, one of the all-time great piano recordings. It was made in December 2009 in the Concert Hall at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. Oddly, the credits name the piano technician, Eddie Low, but not the piano. Whatever it is, it’s a beauty, and Tiu plays it masterfully. If we were allowed a sixth selection for our annual Want Lists, this release would be on mine. Urgently recommended."
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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