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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Liza Stepanova, E Pluribus Unum, New Piano Music


Piano master Liza Stepanova pays homage to present-day American immigrant composers in her very winning CD E Pluribus Unum (Navona NV6300). The project was in response to changing attitudes and the at-times disturbing policies prevailing in the US in the last several years. Liza underscores the contributions made by immigrants to the health and welfare of the nation by centering her program on a select and fascinating set of Modern solo piano works by composers who have migrated to the USA. These are not "big names" so much as recent voices, stars in the night sky we can start to recognize, so to speak.

There are some nine evocative this-century Modern solo piano works, all reflecting the time and the lead-up to the time, so having some influence from the world about us of course, some slight ethnicity in whatever way we can experience it, not always in some overtly obvious way. Everything was written between 2000 and 2017 and sound that way, in that they are not as directed backwards as forwards. 

The music is hearteningly well played and definitely something substantial and ultra-pianistic so that everything keeps sounding more and more "special" if you give it half a chance. By the time you are done you appreciate the composers involved, whether it be Lera Auerbach, Kamran Ince, Chaya Czernowin, Reinaldo Moya, Anna Clyne, Eun Young Lee, Badie Khaleghian, Pablo Ortiz, and Gabriela Lena Frank.

The music is less Modernist abstraction and more in line with evocative dramatics, sound color poetry that owes more to Crumb and perhaps Messiaen, the lyrical side of Cage, an aspect here and there of Morton Feldman, a lingering waft of Impressionist expression, yet for all that a decided step forward in original content. 

Clearly Ms. Stepanova has taken to these works and has found definitive performance pathways.  This is music of importance and depth, played brilliantly. It is something the New Music follower should not miss, truly. Kudos!

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