First review of "Invasion" album!
Thank you, Rafael de Acha for this great review of Invasion album on All About the Arts!
"The playing of the immensely talented pianist Nadia Shpachenko is quite familiar to me from her previous recording The Poetry of Places, for Reference Recordings. So are the works of the indispensable American composer Lewis Spratlan, including his exquisite operatic setting of Pedro Calderon de la Barca’s Life is a Dream.
Surprise was not among my reactions to the vividly titled Invasion, which gives its title to this extraordinary album of works for the piano featuring the protean Ukrainian-born, adoptive American pianist, Nadia Shpachenko bringing to vivid life a suite, six rags, and two sonatas by Lewis Spratlan.
Composed for Shpachenko during the 2022 war with Russia as she watched her home city of Kharkiv and her beloved Ukraine and its people decimated day after day in a brutal, senseless war, our pianist found in music both consolation and an escape valve for pent up sorrow and anger.
Invasion, the key piece on the album, is composer Lewis Spratlan’s response to the Russia-Ukraine war. An emotionally charged, boldly dissonant, intensely descriptive composition for piano, alto saxophone, horn, trombone, timpani, snare drum, and mandolin, Invasion compactly conveys in its ten minutes of anguished music its author’s visceral response to the horrors of war.
All brief, all diverse in tone, all skirting tonality, the remaining nine works are nevertheless easy on the ear, often surprisingly melodic or yet brashly, almost sardonically dissonant, or else ironic on occasion as when a meditatively sober piece breaks into a little waltz or when, in another instance or two, echoes of Scott Joplin surreptitiously at first, then hard-headedly interrupt bucolic reflections on nature.
When the composer stops the musical satire and the bucolic reflections, as in the bluntly harrowing opening Invasion or as in the closing Wonderer, we hear the impassioned Spratlan, utterly familiar with and fully able to put into music the sounds of tragedy. In Wonderer Spratlan expresses the vicissitudes of a hero’s journey through life in the form of a fantasy not far in form and intent from that of its Romantic predecessor, except that Spratlan’s fantasy of a wondering wanderer has its hero momentarily lapsing out of his or her misery when sweet melodic snippets from the past come calling offering succor and comfort.
Gratitude is due to Lewis Spratlan and to Nadia Shpachenko, soulmates against man’s inhumanity to man.