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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Chia-Ying Chan, Piano, Beethoven, Schubert, Fine

A piano recital album is generally always a welcome thing in my neck of the woods--that is of course when coming from a worthy pianist. I certainly found that to be so with Dr. Chia-Ying Chan and her recent release Beethoven Schubert Fine (Centaur CRC 3627). As we gather from the cover, Ms. Chan gives us works by three composers, classic standards and a well deserving lesser-known work in the Modern sphere.

Ms. Chan hails originally from Taiwan, is the recipient of a number of winning prizes in piano competitions, such as the 2016 American Fine Arts International Concerto Competition (First Place) and has gained acclaim from worldwide concertizing since the launch of her career several years ago. She received her Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance and Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2017 and wrote her dissertation on the Piano Sonatas of Harold Shapero.

Chia-Ying has remarkable balance and poise in her playing, a beautiful touch and a very singing sense of the total structure of any given work. She takes on the very beautifully lyric and heroic Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 31, Op. 131 with a pronounced yet gentle gravitas and a tenderness that seems entirely right, refreshing in its own way. It is less a matter of "dash" as we might have heard from a Backhaus or a Schnabel and rather more introspective to my ears. It is a reading inspired in its own way and a delight to hear.

And too her way with the Schubert Piano Sonata No. 20 , D. 959 is subtle--clarion chiming, somewhat ringing and yet ever singing. Such a glorious work and so happily performed is this one, and yet too Chia-Ying manages to find a way through touch and phrasing to put us in mind of the inner anatomy of the total voicings as well as the main melodic thrust. This makes it all rather wonderful to hear.

Finally we have the sleeper, the surprise of the program in American composer Irving Fine (1914-1962) and his "Music for Piano" in four movements. It is rather firmly diatonic and yet through some brilliant displacements it takes on a Neoclassically glowing sort of resituation, so that key and tonal center are well established yet not at all in the more obvious diatonic ways. It is wonderful music and Chan gives it great attention to detail, a sprightly, almost jaunty exuberance and somewhat playful manner that brings out the music as it was no doubt intended by the composer. Hearing it brings me some joy for sure.

So that is my take on this recital. The Irving Fine alone is worth the price of admission but then with the Beethoven and Schubert we have two more reasons to appreciate the refreshing artistry of Chia-Ying Chan. Well played and poetic performances of brilliant music. Bravo!

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