Serbian-born Kristina Sočanski has been resident in Stavanger since 2001, where she attended the University, and has also studied in Oslo, Weimar and Copenhagen. Her interest in American music was sparked six years ago by a chance encounter with the music of George Crumb (b1929 and still active). The second book of his seminal cycle Makrokosmos (1973) is part of her repertoire and two of its twelve pieces, the opening Morning Music and the fourth, Twin Suns, are included here. Crumb remains one of the greatest and most influential pioneers in sound from the twentieth century. His music incorporates a wide array of timbres and playing techniques: for instance, Morning Music with it sheet of paper placed on the strings to create a vibrant buzzing sonority, and Twin Suns in which the ‘Aeolian harp’ technique of playing directly on the piano strings is used.
Sočanski sounds completely at home with these techniques and gives nuanced performances of both movements. She is equally at home with Glass’ minimalist idiom in three of his twenty Etudes (1994), whether the straightforward repetitive flow of No 9 (as it gradually traverses up the keyboard), or No 18’s more complex tapestry, with its wistful and nostalgic atmosphere reminiscent of his pieces used in the film The Truman Show. Her main competitor in the Etudes is Vikingur Olafssón, who recorded 10 for DG in 2016. Sočanski takes a markedly different view to Olafssón, not quite as fluent in No 9, smoothing out the wider tempo extremities that Olafssón revelled in with No 18. The Icelander has the edge, but Sočanski’s accounts make intriguing alternatives.
Edward Smaldone (b1956) is currently Professor of Music Theory and Composition at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queen’s College, USA. 3 Scenes from The Heartland (1994) was composed for Donald Pirone, who recorded it for CRI. The Scenes were inspired by imagery in Amy Clampitt poetry, such as, “waves of chlorophyll in motion” (Introduction), “involuted tantrums of spring and summer” (the volatile central Scherzo), and “like figures in a ritual, violets are thick, a blue cellarhole of pure astonishment” (the concluding Nocturne). Sočanski handles Smaldone’s range of moods very adroitly, as she does Missy Mazzoli’s Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos (2007), in which she interacts evocatively with a pre-recorded soundtrack to create aural memories of Schubert. Mazzoli (b1980) is a rising star of the younger generation, closer stylistically to Philip Glass than Crumb or Smaldone.
My main cavil with Sheva’s disc is its ungenerous playing time. Sočanski’s programme is carefully constructed and, as a musical sequence, works well, her focus on living composers and small groups of pieces that she feels are complementary. This may explain the absence of anything by Ives or Cowell, though not the inclusion of only three of the nine Arabesques by the extremely long-lived Leo Ornstein (1895-2002). Again, Sočanski’s selection nicely encapsulates the set but at only ten minutes long in total, there was surely room for all nine of these tiny pianistic gems, and indeed more by this very under-rated and under-played composer. The omission is all the more regrettable because they are played rather beautifully. Fine sound, too.
Review from: Den Klassiske CD-bloggen, Trond Erikson, 20.09.2019:
Here you can listen to demo tracks from my new album "A New World" released on Sheva Contemporary, featuring contemporary works for piano solo written by American composers.
1. Philip Glass: Etude no. 9
2. Philip Glass: Etude no. 18
3. Philip Glass: Etude no. 6
4. - 6. Leo Ornstein: From "Arabesques"
7. Edward Smaldone: Three Scenes from The Heartland: 1. Introduction
8. Edward Smaldone: Three Scenes from The Heartland: 2. Scherzo
9. Edward Smaldone: Three Scenes from The Heartland: Nocturne
10. George Crumb: Twin Suns (Makrokosmos book 2)
11. George Crumb: Morning Music (Makrokosmos book 2)
12. Missy Mazzoli: Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos
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