EAST WEST ENCOUNTER I
Ludwig van Beethoven, Ning-Chi Chen, Frédéric Chopin, César Franck, Franz Liszt, Alexina Louie, Somei Satoh
SUSAN CHAN, piano
"Susan Chan has chosen to open with a piece from the East, “Cherishing Thoughts Of Red Cliff”...a highly expressive piece that captures the atmosphere of the poem set within the wonders of the Chinese landscape.
Alexina Louie (b. 1949) provides the second powerful Eastern piece, “Warrior”, taken from “Scenes From A Jade Terrace”. Written in 1988 it depicts the ghost of an ancient Chinese warrior amid a musical fusion of East-West styles. Its unmistakable Oriental scales add further colour to an intriguing piece.
Chan goes west for her next selection, Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 27 in E Minor, Op. 90”. Written in 1814 it is a piece consisting of two movements portraying the love affair between the composer’s friend, Count Moritz von Lichnowsky, and the singer-actress Josefa Stummer.
“Mephisto Waltz No. 1” by Franz Liszt was originally written for orchestra but was later transcribed for piano by him in 1881. It is based on part of the Faust legend, “The Dance Of The Village Inn”, portrayed by the poet Nicholas Lenau. The amorous Faust engages a village beauty in a wild and passionate dance.
“Prelude, Fugue Et Variation, Op. 18) by Cesar Franck [is a] beautiful piece, written around 1862 when Franck was the organist of the church of Sainte-Clotilde in Paris. Delicately textured, and wonderfully sensual, it is awash with a shimmering spirituality.
Lastly, Frederic Chopin appears courtesy of his “Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58”. The piece, in four movements, dates from 1844 and is, in fact, Chopin’s last piano sonata. It is utterly captivating in every conceivable way and leads towards its triumphantly majestic conclusion, a finale which is further enhanced by a faultless performance from Susan Chan.."
Jeff Perkins, BlogCritics - June 2009
"Pianist Susan Chan...shows remarkable clarity of vision and purpose in [the Chinese works]... The same marvelous clarity I cited earlier serves Susan Chan handsomely in the western classics by Beethoven, Liszt, Franck and Chopin. [Chan] relishes the wonderful songlike quality of the second movement [of the Beethoven], marked sehr singbar vorgetragen, where the melody harmonizes with itself in a way that shows us how “Schubertian” Beethoven could be when it suited his purpose... Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No. 1 is, of course, programmatic, based on the “Dance at the Village Inn” episode from Lenau's Faust. Too many pianists have used [Liszt's Mephisto Waltz] to display formidable technical prowess at the expense of the music. Chan takes the music as it was intended, quickly but not excessively fast... The final section, representing the rendezvous in the garden, is as charmingly expressive as I have heard it on record... Cesar Franck's organ Prelude, Fugue and Variation, Op. 18 is not at all programmatic in intent, but Chan's lucid performance shows us how evocative “pure” music can be... Chan's feeling for color and harmony serve her well again in Chopin's Sonata...she shows a firm grasp of the overall design of Chopin's use of polyphony and counterpoint..."
Phil Muse, Audio Club of Atlanta - May 2009
"[a] gripping performance [in which] she enveloped her audience with the simple eloquence and love with which she so lavishly interpreted this music."
New York Concert Review’s comments on Susan Chan’s New York début recital in Weill Recital Hall, November 2000
"a thoughtful musician and a sensitive player" [who] "brought revelations [by performing] the invaluable service of opening up new musical worlds to her audience."
New York Concert Review, September 2007
"an energetic advocate for contemporary music."
The New Yorker
PROGRAM NOTESIn Cherishing Thoughts of Red Cliff, Ning-Chi Chan’s vision of a famous ancient battlefield frames lively heroic scenes and happy times. According to the composer, the piece is "inspired by the Sung Dynasty poem of the same title. The work is a pianistic expression of the mood and atmosphere as painted by the poem, namely, the grandeur of Chinese landscape and with it the reminiscence of past heroic events…The contemplative ending conveys…the helplessness of human beings when faced with the giant and unswerving steps of history."
Commissioned and premiered by Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker, Alexina Louie’s Scenes from a Jade Terrace contains three movements: Warrior, Memories in an Ancient Garden, and Southern Sky. In the powerful first movement, the ghost of an ancient Chinese warrior is depicted in fiery and heavy outer sections that contrast with a more contemplative and poetic middle section. The work is striking in its fusion of Eastern and Western musical language and philosophical ideas. Varied temporal organization, Oriental-sounding scales, harmonies and textures result in a rich symphonic poem.
Beethoven’s Sonata in E minor, Op. 90 was written in 1814 towards the late stylistic period of the composer. Terse and concise in its expression, this two-movement work contains much drama and beauty, portraying the love affair of Count Moritz von Lichnowsky, a friend of Beethoven’s, with the singer-actress Josefa Stummer. In Beethoven’s words, the first movement, in its dramatic dynamic contrasts, is a "battle of head against heart." The second, featuring restatement of themes and imitation of voices, is a "conversation with the beloved," which ends in a lingering departure.
Originally an orchestral work, Mephisto Waltz No.1 was transcribed by Liszt himself for piano solo in 1881. It is based on a portion of the Faust legend portrayed by the poet Nicholas Lenau. This section of the poem, entitled "The Dance in the Village Inn," depicts a wedding feast at which Mephistopheles causes Faust to participate. The text, reprinted in the score, describes the "amorous Faust…with a full-blooded village beauty in a wild dance…The sounds of the fiddle grow softer…and the nightingale warbles…"
Franck composed the Prélude, Fugue et Variation for organ around 1862 when he was organist of the church of Sainte-Clotilde, Paris. This beautiful work contains the essence of French romantic music. It is terse yet full in its expression of delicate and refined feelings; it is spiritual and noble, yet sensuous and passionate. Its form is clean and well-balanced. The Prelude is in ternary form, contrasting the pensive theme in the outer sections with a middle section that embodies much passionate yearning that resembles, as a pupil of Franck expressed it, "a flight into the hereafter." In this effective arrangement, the enforcing 16-foot organ stops are translated into thick chords and triplets in the climax of the Fugue.
Written in 1844, the Sonata in B minor is the last of Chopin’s three piano sonatas. Its refined, powerful expressivity and skillful use of polyphony mark a mature style and a deep reverence for Bach. The first movement juxtaposes a bold and majestic first theme with a lyrical second theme, journeying into counterpoint and colorful harmonies, while the Scherzo contrasts caprice in the outer sections with a lyrical, tender middle section. The slow movement shows the influence of Bellini in its poetic and extended melodic lines supported by a rich array of harmonies. The opening theme of the Finale recurs twice with intensified agitation, and the brilliant coda in B major brings this work to a triumphant conclusion.
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Pianist Susan Chan performs extensively as soloist and chamber musician, and, in addition to traditional repertoire, actively promotes music from Asia and music composed by women. Ms. Chan has performed in recitals and music festivals in the United States and Canada, Europe, Australia and Asia. She has been featured on public television and radio in the US as well as Radio Television Hong Kong. Various prizes she has received in competitions include first prizes in the Hong Kong Young Musicians Award, the Indianapolis Matinee Musicale, and the Mozart Piano Concerto Competition at Indiana University. She has appeared as soloist with the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, and the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra in Indiana. Her CD discography includes East West Encounter featuring music by western and twentieth-century Chinese composers, and Pièces Parisiennes on the Hester Park label featuring French Classical women composers Villeblanche and Bigot.
Susan Chan is an active master class teacher, presenter and adjudicator. She has conducted master classes and performed in universities and schools of music on four continents. Such institutions include Westminster Choir College, Oberlin College, University of Washington, University of Victoria, University of Cambridge, Karol Szymanowski School of Music in Warsaw, University of Sydney, Shanghai Conservatory, and Nihon University in Tokyo. She has lectured and performed at conferences of the Music Teachers National Association, Music Educators National Conference, College Music Society, and the Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities. Her presentations include lecture recitals entitled "Rediscovery of Two French Classical Women Composers: Piano Music by Madame de Villeblanche and Marie Bigot," "An East-West Encounter in Contemporary Chinese Piano Music," "A Multimedia Performance of Chopin’s Twenty-Four Preludes, Op. 28: As Inspired by Alfred Cortot," and "Morimur and Beyond: A Multimedia Performance of Bach/Busoni’s Chaconne in D Minor." She has adjudicated in festivals and competitions in the US, Canada, Hong Kong and Japan. She has also published in Women of Note Quarterly and is listed in the 2000 edition of International Who’s Who in Music and Musicians’ Directory.
Ms. Chan holds a Doctor of Music degree in piano from Indiana University and M.Phil. and B.A. degrees from the University of Hong Kong. She also pursued postgraduate studies at Yale University and holds the Fellowship and Licentiate Performance Diplomas from Trinity College of Music, London, UK. Her major piano teachers include György Sebök and Menahem Pressler. In fall, 2004 she joined the faculty at Portland State University as Assistant Professor of Music and Piano Area Coordinator after being with Washington State University, where she received promotion and tenure.
NING-CHI CHEN (b.1940)
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886)
CÉSAR FRANCK (1822-1890)
FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN (1810-1849)