Review from Bargemusic by Harry Rolnick
Thank you, Harry Rolnick/ConcertoNet for this review of last night's concert at Bargemusic!
"The rare combination of poetry and athleticism by Nadia Shpachenko was on full display last night, as the executant of equally athletic compositions by Lewis Spratlan... Ms. Shpachenko resides on the West Coast, yet she has been a paragon of execution for virtually every American composer from Elliott Carter to the late (alas) George Crumb to last night’s Lewis Spratlan. And no wonder. It isn’t her incredible pianism, her endless gymnastics; instead it was her clarity, the quantum attention to every change of metre in every measure.
The performance of muscular piano geniuses is hardly rare, and their displays can always dazzle us. Ms. Shpachenko takes another route, that of sprinting down dozens of simultaneous tangly paths and allowing us to see every flower, tree, insect along the way... For his opening work, he [Spratlan] described–verbally–his Invasion as “Agggh”. The Russian invasion of Ms. Shpachenko’s native Ukraine could only be depicted with that word. Musically, it could have resembled Goya’s war pictures or Picasso’s Guernica. But the instruments themselves (in a recording played for the audience) offered a picture of frightening tragedy. It started yes, with a percussive bang. But the medley of improbable instruments–horn, trombone, mandolin, sax and of course Ms. Shpachenko’s piano–gave a picture of war at its most warlike. Mr. Spratlan was never averse to interject a folk melody or two, yet they were eradicated by the sounds of battle. It was a stunning opening...
Like Josquin des Prez, like Shchedrin and like Charles Ives, Mr. Spratlan was always ready to either quote from or mirror other styles, other music. Using Scott Joplin as his foundation for Six Rags was genius. Each of them had a geographical place named in the New England mountains. Yet that was a personal inspiration. The results were purely original. Yes, he used Joplin-style rags within each of the six pieces. They could be blatant–and played with dynamic impetus by Ms. Shpachenko–or hidden amongst a forest of intervals... Ms. Shpachenko didn’t have to emphasize the ironies in all six Rags. They sung for themselves, were written with elation, and played last night with both brunt and beauty."