Monday, June 1, 2015

Christopher Janwong McKiggan, Paganimania

Christopher Janwong McKiggan, a pianist with a multicultural heritage (English, Scottish, Chinese, Thai) has drawn on his corresponding interest in composers from around the world and his enthusiasm for Paganini to commission an international coterie of composers each to create a new solo piano work based on Paganini's 24th Caprice. The gathering of differing approaches has resulted in the solo piano album Paganimania (Albany TROY 1543).

Seven composers from around the world have created seven very varied pieces which McKiggan performs with poeticism and grace. The world is represented by composers from America, Canada, Thailand, China, Korea and the Middle East. The composers are Robert Beaser, Moon Young Ha, Karim Al-Zand, Narong Prangcharoen, Zhou Jing, S. Peace Nistades and James Mobberley.

The works are all generally of an international contemporary modernist/postmodernist cast. Some are quite difficult to play but McKiggan gives us a satisfying first recorded performance of all. It can be imaged that with years more experience of these works McKiggan might well top himself with ever finer performances, but that is of no moment in the present, since the outcome is good and the various approaches contrast in interesting ways and make for a fine listening experience.

Paganini's 24th Caprice may not always be readily audible in the way each composer transforms it to create something new. And the cultural-musical backgrounds of each composer are also subtly present. Both factors however are very much integral to the final results and show themselves in varied ways with careful listening over time.

It is a fascinating program, well conceived and well played. McKiggan takes a good idea and brings it to full fruition on Paganimania. Bravo!

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