Fanfare Magazine, November/December 2007
by Peter Burwasser
Here is an interesting range of mostly esoteric works by American composers and one 800 pound gorilla. The album title is apt indeed. Jane Solose, a Canadian native now teaching in Kansas City at the University of Missouri, is an enthusiastic and entertainning musician with eclectic taste. I can judge her comparatively only in the Gershwin; this is a broadly viewed, rather deliberately paced performance, qualities which are not negatives, although one misses the sparkle and snap that the music often calls for. A more notable problem with this reading is the narrow dynamic range Solose works within. There are neither true pianissimos nor thunderous climaxes, although her tone at mezzo-forte is pleasingly full-bodied. But even if she doesn't achieve a distinctive style along the lines of a Wild, Levant (orchestra version), or the composer himself (the indispensable solo piano version), this is joyous and easy to enjoy playing.
That spirit continues with one of Gottschalk's bonbons on Spanish dance themes, and then an especially attractive trio of works by Amy Beach. If Gottschalk was the first Amercian composer of international stature at mid 19th century, Beach represents a maturation of that process a generation later. Compared to the simple, almost hokey construction of his music, these pieces of Beach are subtle, even impressionistic in their presentation. Can we hear more of his lovely music, please? We get the occasional flush of interest in Beach from time to time, and then a lull. I would welcome a full-scale exploration of this valuable American pioneer, and would certainly be interested in hearing more of the piano music, although Solose gives us a tasty introduction here.
The balance of this recital consists of compelling music from composers of our time. The works of Chen Yi and Deniz Ince represent music of American composers drawing on specific cultural heritages, in these cases, Chinese and Turkish, respectively. Chen's music is traditional; a prismatic parade of whole-tone patterns. Ince is more dramatic, even mysterious. With the Twelve Studies for piano, James Fry joins an auspicious tradition of étude-writing. These are highly individualistic, contrasting works, the product of an imaginitive and colorful compositional sensibility. As with the études of György Ligeti and David Rakowski, not to mention Chopin, Fry demonstrates the seemingly endless creative possibilities in this simple concept.