Reviews

Select review quotes for Nadia Shpachenko’s Woman at the New Piano: American Music of 2013

Don Clark, Pictures on Silence
Woman at the New Piano is an album with a surely cosmic purpose… this prodigiously talented, California-based pianist and teacher, has recorded a delightful and diverse program of brand new works she commissioned in 2013 from four outstanding composers, Tom Flaherty, Peter Yates, Adam Schoenberg and James Matheson… Arresting, dramatic, exhilarating and sometimes briefly serene, [Tom Flaherty’s] “Airdancing” stretches the listener’s imagination and challenges the ear while being accessible and frankly smile producing enjoyable… Shpachenko makes a most convincing case for [Adam Schoenberg’s Picture Etudes] and we are unlikely to get such a definitive, affectionate recording soon. [James Matheson’s Cretic Variations]… a powerful, lyrical and demanding set of variations. Another work that can, and should, become a staple of recitals and programs… Stellar performances, usual fine Reference Recordings sound throughout, informative liner notes and a most varied and energetic program make “Woman at the New Piano” a clear winner and a new favorite here.”

Ron Schepper, Textura Magazine
“An exceptional recording of newly composed piano works… Shpachenko renders [Peter Yates’] jazz-tinged “Mood Swing” with the elegance and poise of a Bill Evans, brings out the joyful jaunt of “Gambol,” rides the ragtime roller-coaster “All Better” with elan, and shows in the tenderly wistful setting “Mysterious Dawn” that the most powerful music needn’t be loud to have an impact… Given the involvement of multiple composers, Woman at the New Piano is naturally diverse. Though dramatic stylistic contrasts between works emerge, Shpachenko’s passionate rendering of the material unifies it on this special recording. Clearly a labour of love.”

Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International
“[Adam Schoenberg’s] Picture Etudes, each based on famous painters, are catchy, witty and apt. “Three Pierrots” catches the clownish spirit of the Albert Bloch original, which shows the Pierrots dancing. “Miró’s World” is a bit jazzy, a bit silly and a whole lot anarchic. Think of the Miró on the cover of Brubeck’s Time Further Out. The last two works are longer, including an impressionist tone-picture depicting Van Gogh and very much in the style of Debussy, Séverac or Pierné… At the other end of the emotional spectrum is James Matheson’s Cretic Variations, a fourteen-minute epic series of variations on the long-short-long spoken rhythm. It’s a tour de force. The chords and harmonies sometimes remind me strongly of Brahms and Prokofiev, while the breadth and scope inevitably call to mind Bach’s Chaconne. Despite those echoes, it’s still a very original success… Nadia Shpachenko plays excellently through the whole album… If there’s a downside to this release, it’s that we might start expecting a new one every year. Nadia Shpachenko has done heroic work here, and the composers provide stimulating listening.”

Paul Muller, New Classic LA
“[Peter Yates’ Finger Songs] is like a candy sampler with all sorts of moods, tempos and techniques packed into small, bite-sized packages, Ms. Shpachenko extracting the full flavor of each. Picture Etudes for Solo Piano by Adam Schoenberg is an amazing collection of four short movements… [James Matheson’s] Cretic Variations is a remarkable journey, full of mood swings and changes of pace, all expertly played… Woman at the New Piano is a generous helping of new piano music by four contemporary composers covering a wide range of feelings, moods and techniques. Ms. Shpachenko and Genevieve Feiwen Lee have skillfully combined to produce a memorable recording.”

Brian Olewnick, Just outside
“[Nadia Shpachenko] impresses very much as a pianist with a light, crisp touch and a way of keeping the music flowing very cleanly… [Tom Flaherty’s Airdancing] is a rapidly scampering piece with innumerable cross-rhythms, influenced, probably via Cage and Harrison, by southeast Asian traditions… Beautiful playing from each musician… [Adam Schoenberg’s Olive Orchard] wows, just a heartbreakingly gorgeous melody… this music carves out its own space, direct and moving… played with extreme sensitivity by Shpachenko… Schoenberg’s “Bounce,” which concludes the disc, is for two pianos (again, Lee joins in) and is a delightful romp… the execution sounds flawless… the music is so infectious… A very engaging set.”

Ralph Graves, Off Topic’d and WTJU
“Tom Flaherty’s Airdancing for toy piano, piano, and electronics, uses the toy piano both as a tinny melodic instrument and as a metallic non-tonal percussion instrument. The exotic timbres reminded me strongly of Harry Partch’s music. Flaherty’s second work, Part Suite-a, uses thick tone clusters throughout, but with more major seconds than minor second groupings, softening the dissonance in an appealing way. The Picture Etudes of Adam Schoenberg is a suite of four short vignettes that seemed to have echoes of Martinu in some sections. And the addition of the bass drum and gong work (played by the pianist) are both understated and quite effective in their use. His work Bounce concludes the recital, a work for two pianos that sounds like it was a lot of fun to play (it certainly was to listen to). Cretic Variations by James Matheson is the longest work on the disc (14 minutes), and is a jazzy, percussive and thoroughly modern delight. Nadia Shpachenko collaborated in the creation of these works, giving her an emotional investment and empathy with them. She conveys that empathy with sure, insightful delivery.”

James Manheim, AllMusic
“Pianist Nadia Shpachenko took the erroneous Mayan apocalypse predictions of 2012 as a starting point, posited a new era of pianism beginning the following year, commissioned new works from four composers, and worked closely with them on the works’ genesis. The result is a set of four pieces that seem tied together even though the styles of the four composers are quite different from one another. The common element, perhaps, is the humor implicit in the overall concept. Tom Flaherty’s Airdancing is written for the unusual combination of piano, toy piano, and electronics, with the toy piano in the unlikely role of mediator between the pianistic and electronic realms; and the same composer’s Part Suite-a gently spoofs Baroque idioms. Peter Yates’ Finger Songs are lightly jazz- and blues-infused pieces that take up where Debussy and Ravel left off. The Picture Etudes of Adam Schoenberg (apparently no relation to either Arnold or Claude-Michel) developed out of a different commission, one for a contemporary Pictures at an Exhibition, and each is evocative of the style of a different modern artist. Schoenberg’s Bounce is a playful romp inspired by children’s antics. The Cretic Variations of James Matheson are weightier but do not disturb the basic continuity. Reference Recordings’ engineering work at Pomona College is excellent, and Shpachenko’s involvement in the music does not cloud her accurate playing. Recommended.”

Andrew Quint, The Absolute Sound Magazine
“Reference Recordings garnered seven nominations for the 2016 Grammy Awards, including two for Woman at the New Piano. The disc premieres six works written in 2013 by four composers, three of whom, like Shpachenko, live and work in the Los Angeles environs. Proposed for “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance” was Tom Flaherty’s Airdancing for Toy Piano, Piano, and Electronics, where Shpachenko is joined by another Angelino, Genevieve Feiwen Lee. (A “toy piano,” by the way, is a real instrument, like a toy poodle is a real dog.) The sonority ranges from eerie, gossamer-like beauty to mechanical ravings, sometimes evoking an Indonesian gamelan. Flaherty also provides Part Suite-a, two spiky, percussive movements surrounding a lullaby of sorts. Adam Schoenberg contributes Picture Etudes (a modern-day Pictures at an Exhibition) and the upbeat/majestic Bounce for two pianos. Finger Songs, by Peter Yates, registers as low-key jazz improvisation. Cretic Variations, by the New York composer James Matheson, thoroughly explores the possibilities of a poetic form known as “cretic foot.” Shpachenko and Lee perform the music with complete authority and they’re superbly recorded at 176.4/24 resolution in a 550-seat concert hall by Shpachenko’s husband, Barry Werger-Gottesman. Keith Johnson was the mastering engineer.”

Select review quotes for Nadia Shpachenko’s “Quotations and Homages” program

Steven Niles, New Classic LA
“Pianist Nadia Shpachenko Honors Audience in Homage-Themed Recital at Sound and Fury”

“Nadia Shpachenko’s obviously masterful recital last Saturday concluded the second season of the estimable new music series, Sound and Fury Concerts on a high note. Delivered with an authority and unhesitating know-how that left no room for doubt, Shpachenko’s virtuoso program of new music for piano—both solo and electronically fleshed—revealed how convincingly present-day composers can match the prestidigital feats of Liszt and Chopin. Simultaneously, universal statements on life and art, expressed in a heartfelt lyricism still resounding almost audibly, emerged to elevate the afternoon event into something profound… Shpachenko’s thoughtfully ordered offering of uniformly winning pieces, centered on a theme of “quotations and homages,” was an homage to the audience—an inviting, overflowing musical cornucopia, impacting listeners all the more directly in its uninterrupted flow.”

Paul Muller, Sequenza21
“Nadia Shpachenko at Art Share LA”

“A bountiful offering of extraordinary piano music combined with highly skilled performances… 6 Fugitive Memories is a remarkable exposition of historical and influential musical voices, expertly realized by Ms. Shpachenko… The wide variety of density and colors make Rainbow Tangle a well balanced tribute to Messiaen’s landmark work… Down to You is Up makes effective use of the Velvet Underground material without being derivative, creating a sparkling, original work… Epitaphs and Youngsters is a well-balanced multimedia work that memorably captures the essence of its subjects in music, visual art and words… Ms. Shpachenko sat quietly and seemed to gather herself before attacking the keyboard, issuing blizzard of rapid notes from the piano that filled the air with an amazing variety of complex sounds – for about ten seconds [in Piano Piece for Mr. Carter’s 100th Birthday]… Bolts of Loving Thunder displays an impressive range of emotions and exuberance in keeping with a great tradition… Igor to Please is visceral and exciting, an amazing ensemble of electronics and piano that calls for virtuosic skill by the soloist… Accidental Mozart was received in good fun and showcased Borecki’s acute sense of musical style and arrangement.”

George Grella, New York Classical Review
“Pianist Shpachenko brings strength to wide range of living composers”

“The latest example was pianist Nadia Shpachenko, nominated for a Grammy for her CD Woman at the New Piano: American Music of 2013. Coming in from Southern California, she brought a program of nine different pieces, “Quotations and Homages,” all of recent vintage, including six world premieres Sunday night. The works are responses to music of composers of the past. Despite the conceptual framework, the music covered a broad range of styles—almost entirely tonal. Shpachenko herself is a strong player, with a touch that gives weight and solidity even at low dynamics…

Waller consistently makes interesting and unusual work of the tools of minimalism, as in this fine new piece. Over a rising bass ostinato, Shpachenko gracefully played a long-limbed melody that sounded more attractive with each note… More direct, and in a way more personal, was Daniel Felsenfeld’s punchy Down to You is Up… the Velvet influence mainly comes through in the meaty passion of the music. It gets wild at times, and Shpachenko played with plenty of power… the highlight of the concert was Tom Flaherty’s Rainbow Tangle… Shpachenko played expertly with and through the electronics, shaping the dynamics into a rich ambient sound… eminently worthwhile concert from Shpachenko and her fellow composers.”

Select review quotes for Nadia Shpachenko’s “Poetry of Places” program

Harry Rolnick, ConcertoNet.com
“The Poetry of Places: Newly-written compositions inspired by diverse buildings”

“The sextet of accomplished composers worked with solitary houses on lakeside islands, an anomalous monolith in Dhaka, the world’s oldest extant building, the complex interior of Aaron Copland’s home, and a unique art museum. How these composers conceived these structures in sound, whether giving them literal measurements or spiritual ideas…that was the challenge of this music, nearly all of it dedicated to Ms. Shpachenko herself. They couldn’t have chosen a more apt executant. While residing mainly on the West Coast, Ms. Shpachenko has given premieres for Elliott Carter, George Crumb, and virtually every other American composer. Last night, though, Ms. Shpachenko played not only these six very different concepts, but she added a toy piano and–in a beautiful croon–her own voice… The result was something magical, a vision which transcended building and, like any art, put us in the mood… truly original… mysterious and touching…”

George Grella, New York Classical Review

“With the setting sun backlighting the backdrop of the skyline of lower Manhattan, Shpachenko delivered a pleasing concert of music written about architecture… Shpachenko’s playing matched the verve of the writing, and she was in tune with the subtle but substantial sensitivity in the music… The music was full of unexpected passion and turmoil… There was terrific, thrusting energy… Through Shpachenko’s fluid performance the piece was easily heard as absolute music, an exploration of how rhythms, phrases, dynamics, and excellent counterpoint all work together to make invisible structures…”

Brin Solomon, New Classic LA

“We’re living in a time of great stylistic plurality, a time when certain older systems of composing have lost the sway they once enjoyed and new ones haven’t quite arisen to take their place. Shpachenko helped show that — there are definitely styles that she didn’t have room to feature, but no two of the works she played take the same approach to melody, harmony, and form… It was a fitting reminder that masterworks do come out of this bubble and strife, and a subtle affirmation that some things being written now may well be touchstones of the repertoire in another ninety years.”

Miscellaneous select review quotes for Nadia Shpachenko

Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times
(performance of Xenakis’ Palimpsest)
“Xenakis’ work is a fascinating place to visit, as it builds and undoes its structure and engages in various sonic funhouse-mirror maneuvers. Our ears yearn to latch onto discernible themes or rhythmic grids, but they’re just beyond grasp. In short, it’s a test of musical perception. Pianist Nadia Shpachenko and timpanist Dave Gerhart were given workouts and rose to their tasks.”

Paul Muller, New Classic LA
(performance of Yuri Ishchenko’s Piano Sonata No. 6 and other works)
Piano Sonata No. 6 (2007), by Yuri Ishchenko began with a Fantasia. Its strong opening and quietly mysterious melody made for a gloomy feeling. A bit of agitation animated the texture, leading up to a series of resounding chords. This pattern of quiet tension followed by increasingly anxious passages continued, especially in the lower registers where deep rumblings added a sense of menace. A marvelous Ukranian bleakness poured grimly out of the keyboard under Ms. Shpachenko’s steady hands. The dynamics and tempo increased just as the texture thickened, the notes rushing out into the audience like a dark, flowing torrent. A very rapid run upward and a solemnly quiet chord at the finish carried Fantasia to its conclusion.

The second movement, Imperativo, arrived with a bright, almost waltz-like tempo invoking a feeling that is both decisive and purposeful. The active phrasing, while often complex, never felt timid or nervous. The precise and nuanced playing impressed, especially in the quieter stretches, and a hint of Prokofiev lyricism emerged in the melodies. A new line in the lower register rose up in a complex wave, making its way through the middle piano keys and accelerated to an almost fugue-like intricacy. This is engaging music, aided by the expressive passages and a profusion of notes that roared outward at the conclusion. The final movement, Epilogo, proved much more subdued, with tentative notes and a vague feeling of uncertainty. Although brief and fittingly restrained, this movement contrasted perfectly with the preceding fireworks. As the last notes died away, much cheering and applause arose for this most energetic performance.”

Dennis Pond, Imperial Valley Press
(performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4)
“a brilliant pianist… spellbinding in sensitivity and mastery of technique”

Ralph Andrews, Pasadena Star News
(performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major)
“incredible performance full of emotions… virtuoso playing at its best”

Theodore Cashuk, San Diego Jewish Press Heritage
“Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, played by Nadia Shpachenko, was clearly the highlight of the evening. It is a demanding piece and Shpachenko was up to its difficult demands. Her attack and technique were excellent and she showed some fine musicianship. She was heavy-handed when she needed to be and light textured when that was called for… Overall, it was a pleasure to hear her performance. The beautiful third movement (“Andante”) was where she showed her musical heart. It was truly inspiring.”

Sherli Leonard, The Press-Enterprise
“Bright, inventive, imaginative, and rife with Gershwinesque chords, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major featured pianist Nadia Shpachenko and the sparkling work of piccolo, trumpet and percussion. [San Bernardino Symphony] Orchestra and soloist neatly handled the sudden meter changes, especially for the winds in the third movement. Shpachenko ably tackled every possible piano technique, and despite the piano’s thick voicing, gave amazing articulation to the staccato work and the warp speed arpeggios of the first movement. In the second movement, after the long, poignant opening solo, Shpachenko and Lynnette Kobernik on English horn raised the performance level to sublime on their long duet, with Shpachenko sensitively and lightly playing a deceptively difficult left-hand boom-chuck-chuck line throughout the movement.”

Dennis Pond, Imperial Valley Press
“The highlight of the evening was after the intermission when Nadia Shpachenko played Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor. She is a brilliant young piano soloist… Her rendition of the Rachmaninoff Concerto matched every preconceived idea of what is best in Russian piano music; it was lively and pyrotechnic, dark and brooding, delicate and sensuous… The balance between the soloist and the orchestra was superb. In the more delicate second movement, the pianist and members of the woodwind and French horn sections each had exquisite incidental duets. The music making was sublime.”

Dennis K. Robertson, Redlands Daily Facts
“Pianist Nadia Shpachenko captured Rachmaninoff’s nuances and introspective depths of feeling in her performance [of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2)… The exchanges between Shpachenko, Fetta, and the orchestra clearly showed a high level of communication between them… Shpachenko displayed a maturity of style and depth of emotion well beyond her young age.”

Mitch Sturman, Imperial Valley Press
“The opening work featured pianist Nadia Shpachenko… Her performance of the Emperor Concerto was polished and refined, with much care given to bring out the composer’s intricate contrapuntal inner voices. Her tone was full and rich throughout.”

Sala de Prensa, Baja California
“Bajo la batuta como director invitado de David Amos, la Orquesta interpretó también temas de Franz Joseph Haydn y Ludwig V. Beethoven, con una memorable participación de la brillante pianista Nadia Shpachenko quien hizo una verdadera gala de su virtuosismo… El público se mantuvo muy atento y emocionado hasta el final, donde disfrutaron del concierto Emperador, una pieza de Beethoven de trinta y siete minutos en los que la orquesta les regaló una de sus mejores interpretaciones, monstrando la belleza y complejidad de la musica del siglo XVIII, mientras que Shpachenko tocó cada uno de los temas con exquisitez y sensibilidad a flor de piel, transmitiendo su amor y pasión por la música.”

Translation:
“Under the baton of guest conductor David Amos, the orchestra also performed pieces by Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig V. Beethoven with a memorable participation of brilliant pianist Nadia Shpachenko, who showcased her true virtuosity… The audience was very attentive and excited throughout, where they enjoyed the Emperor Concerto, a thirty-seven minute piece by Beethoven, in which the orchestra presented one of its best performances, projecting the beauty and complexity of the music of the 18th century, while Shpachenko played each of the themes with delicacy and sensitivity, conveying her love and passion for music.”

Richard Bammer, The Reporter
“Vacaville audiences – as audiences anywhere might – may be able to take contemporary music only in small doses, but there’s hope for more after Shpachenko’s concert. Her spirit and wiliness to take a chance, to be adventurous without apology, to introduce audiences to contemporary piano music like Crumb’s – and to play it exceedingly well and animatedly – make Shpachenko an important and significant emerging artist. She is a successor to Margaret Leng Tan.”

Richard Storm, Sarasota Herald Tribune
“The crime was perpetrated by narrator Robert Sherman, aided and abetted by Julie Landsman, horn, and Nadia Shpachenko, piano, both of whom played beautifully, as far as could be determined.”

Magdalena Baczewska, New York Concert Review
“The second movement Andante [of Mozart’s Sonata in F Major, K. 533], played with a beautiful tone set in a chamber mode, flowing, yet calm, showed the pianist’s good musical taste. I found the play of light and the shadow of the sonority very engaging… The New York premiere of the very demanding and effective Homage to Ligeti by Michael Garson was received with great enthusiasm.”

Florence Fisher, Sarasota Herald Tribune
“From the fiery beginning of the Allegro movement of Beethoven’s Piano Trio in D (Op. 70, No. 1), pianist Nadia Shpachenko’s brilliant clarity and pearly trills set the tone for the velvety sound of cellist Matthew Johnson and the lyrical violin of Tobias Steyman.”

Yaro Bihun, The Ukrainian Weekly
“When one of Washington’s leading art museums, The Phillips Collection, opened the much heralded exhibit “Modigliani: Beyond The Myth” on February 26, it scheduled a “lecture-recital” for the following day, titled “Music and Modigliani” and featuring pianist Nadia Shpachenko. Phillips is known for its modern art exhibits, as well as its concert series, but this coupling of the two art forms was a first for the museum, as its music program director told the audience in introducing the Ukrainian-born pianist. Ms. Shpachenko prepared a program of piano pieces by composers who were part of the circle of musicians, writers and artists in the Montparnasse area of Paris, where the Italian-born artist Amedeo Modigliani, the quintessential bohemian artist in early 20th century Paris, was known as “The Prince of Montparnasse.” As Ms. Shpachenko explained in the “lecture” introductions to the music selections, they were modern, light pieces, the kind that this group of artists would hear at concerts or while they dined and drank late into the night in the local clubs and restaurants in Montparnasse. On the program were “Cold Pieces,” “Truly Flacid Preludes (for a dog),” and “Three Distinguished Waltzes of a Jaded Dandy” by Erik Satie, who, along with Jean Cocteau, was a dominant force in the avant-garde music scene in Paris, Darius Milhaud’s suite of dances “Nostalgia for Brazil” and a tango from his “The Ox on the Roof,” as well as pieces by Francis Poulenc and other composers of that period.”