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Vivian Choi Plays Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff & Godowsky

Choi / Prokofiev / Rachmaninoff / Godowsky
Release Date: 06/14/2011 
Label:  Northern Flowers   Catalog #: 9985   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei ProkofievSergei RachmaninovLeopold Godowsky
Performer:  Vivian Choi
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


This is Korean-born Australian pianist Vivian Choi's first solo CD. She warms up with the first four movements from Prokofiev's 10 Pieces, op.97 from his own ballet Cinderella - not to be confused with his 3 Pieces, op.95 or his 6 Pieces, op.102, all arranged by Prokofiev for piano from the same work.
 
Then it is straight into the mighty Sixth Sonata, the first of Prokofiev's so-called 'war' sonatas, written in the depressing days of 1939 and 1940. With the literally pounding
Read more first movement Choi shows fine muscle development in the upper arm and wrist. After the rowdy jack-the-lad of a second movement, the waltzy third brings a rare opportunity for Choi to switch to more lyrical mode, if not to venture much below forte. Much has been written about the anguish and sinister elements of Prokofiev's Sixth Sonata, and the 'Northern Flowers' authored liner notes continue this trend with abandon. But there really is no "cruel onslaught of enemy" in the first movement, nor "a storm [...] at the door" at the end of the fourth - Choi demonstrates with considerable insight that there is very little torment or darkness, even in the hell-for-leather Vivace finale. Despite the war, Prokofiev is in fact in exuberant, sometimes even sensual mood in this work - in a twisted/ghoulish kind of way without doubt, but nonetheless teasing and extravagant. And uproariously exciting.
 
By contrast, Rachmaninov's Second Sonata, though just as virtuosic as Prokofiev's Sixth, sounds more refined, more beautiful, and is certainly more inward-looking. The revised 1931 version is shorter than the original, but in some ways more difficult to play. Yet Choi copes admirably, and is particularly appealing in the beautiful slow movement, which still, however, has dozens of notes per second in places.
 
Choi winds up her well-chosen recital with a wind-down, sort of: Godowsky's lilting, exacting Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes from 'Die Fledermaus' - not 'Die Fliedermaus', as the CD booklet states three times, turning Johann Strauss's 'Bat' into a 'Lilac-Mouse'! This is the second of four Symphonic Metamorphoses Godowsky wrote transforming Strauss's delightful waltz tunes into a piano virtuoso's crowd pleaser. A discful of such works played by Marc-André Hamelin was released by Hyperion in 2008 - see review. Choi does not yet have Hamelin's panache or technique, but who does? Nonetheless she makes light once again of all technical demands, keeping control of the torrent of notes that threatens to spill off the pages of the score.
 
Sound quality is very good, although for those that might have wished for it, there is very little church atmosphere. The CD booklet is informative, even if the variety of English used is slightly strange in places. The biographical notes on Choi also go into perhaps a bit too much detail, listing even what Australian radio station her recital debut was broadcast on in 1997!
 
But a fine disc, in any case.
 
-- Byzantion, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Four Pieces from the ballet Cinderella, Op. 97: Spring Fairy by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Vivian Choi (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1943 
Venue:  St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Peter 
Length: 1 Minutes 5 Secs. 
2.
Four Pieces from the ballet Cinderella, Op. 97: Summer Fairy by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Vivian Choi (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1943 
Venue:  St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Peter 
Length: 1 Minutes 45 Secs. 
3.
Four Pieces from the ballet Cinderella, Op. 97: Autumn Fairy by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Vivian Choi (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1943 
Venue:  St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Peter 
Length: 1 Minutes 15 Secs. 
4.
Four Pieces from the ballet Cinderella, Op. 97: Winter Fairy by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Vivian Choi (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1943 
Venue:  St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Peter 
Length: 3 Minutes 28 Secs. 
5.
Sonata for Piano no 6 in A major, Op. 82 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Vivian Choi (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939-1940; USSR 
Venue:  St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Peter 
Length: 28 Minutes 46 Secs. 
6.
Sonata for Piano no 2 in B flat minor, Op. 36 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Vivian Choi (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913/1931; Russia 
Venue:  St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Peter 
Length: 21 Minutes 3 Secs. 
7.
Symphonic metamorphosis of themes from "Die Fledermaus" by Leopold Godowsky
Performer:  Vivian Choi (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1912; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Peter 
Length: 9 Minutes 46 Secs. 

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