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Friday, August 27, 2021

Chelsea Guo, Chopin in My Voice


Music that has withstood time's entropy is never out of season. Any new artist that devotes herself to the music is potentially worthwhile, of course. There is necessarily room for multiple interpretations. That means we should recognize the worthy ones when we come across them. Pianist-soprano Chelsea Guo is unquestionably one of those. She comes to us with poetically heartfelt readings of Chopin for solo piano, and then she further astonishes with ravishingly beautiful performances of two works for voice and piano, played and sung by Ms. Guo simultaneously and wonderfully well.

It is as good an example of any of why one must listen to a new offering without presumption. Chelsea Guo's Chopin in My Voice (Orchid Classics ORC 100167) gives us an idea  of what to expect in the title wording. The "voice" reference is key--first off because Ms. Guo's pianism gives us Chopin (his Preludes, Fantasie, etc.) with considerable concentric and insightful phraseology.

She makes the piano sing, with subtle shadings, authentic feeling, focused beauty. Hers is perhaps less extraverted that some readings, especially from the early days of the LP--the fifties. In any event her versions hold up remarkably well with a lot of listens. Her style is brilliantly fluid. Chopin would have been pleased, I think She handles it with all warmth, and poetic precision. without the overblown gush of some grandstanding versions from the past.

And then her soprano comes to us with a tender lyricism while she accompanies herself nicely on the piano. Chopin's "Etude Op. 10 No.3" appears here in a version with a soprano line emerging out of the original piano part and lyrics by Ernst Marischko. It and the ensuing Rossini aria from La Gazza Ladra stand out with a stunning presence. If Ms. Guo's voice was not disarmingly lyrical, lovely, there would be less reason to appreciate the melding. But in fact her voice is every bit as good as her piano playing! And all that makes the album special. This album. We are immersed in the timeless beauty of the music and we begin to appreciate that we have something very gratifying to hear, indeed. Chelsea Guo is special.

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