EAST WEST ENCOUNTER II
Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach-Busoni, Frédéric Chopin, Doming Lam, Alexina Louie, Somei Satoh
SUSAN CHAN, piano
"...it is the singularly poetic style of Chan as a pianist that acts as the glue that binds this recital together. In the familiar music here of Bach and Chopin, she finds a lyrical pulse, unhurried and lush, with an uncanny absence of self-absorption. This is beautiful playing, almost simple at first impression, but upon careful listening, recognized to be well crafted and awash with subtle tonal shading... an unusual program, made compelling by a uniquely charming musician."
Peter Burwasser, Fanfare - January / February 2010
"Susan Chan's latest piano recital, East-West Encounter II is, if anything, even more beautiful and compelling than her earlier release in the series. The Hong Kong native who now teaches at Portland State University makes another persuasive case for the cross-fertilization of musical traditions East and West as she explores work by Doming Lam (b.1926), Somei Satoh (b.1947), Alexina Louie (b.1949) J. S. Bach and Frederic Chopin.
Lam's Moonlight Over Spring River reveals the pictorialism, sense of movement, and delight in sensual image that connect modern Chinese composers with the culture of past centuries. The six movements, in which the sound clearly evokes imagery, are: Chiming Bells of River Tower, Moon over East Mountain , Flower Shadows, Distant Chirps of Dawn, Returning Waves, and Homeward Boat. The music of Louie, coming a generation later than Lam, reveals more of the influence of western music in Memories of an Ancient Garden. This haunting piece, though written for piano, has the nature of a symphonic poem. It uses harmonics and glissandi, as well as tone clusters played with the palm, to create a mood of strange beauty.
For those who habitually confuse elements of Chinese and Japanese culture, Incarnation II by the largely self-taught Japanese composer Satoh is a healthy tonic. There is a real minimalist strain (native Japanese variety) in this 12-minute piece that aims at prolonging a single unit of sound through repetition, involving tremolos in the lowest register of the piano, stepwise motion from one chord to the next, two climaxes, and then a subsiding to nothingness in a way that shows the influence of both Zen Buddhism and Shintoism.
Bach is represented by his Prelude in B minor from the Klavier-Büchlein (Little Keyboard Book), the gracious and ever-popular chorales Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring and Sheep May Safely Graze, and a moving account of the Busoni transcription of the mighty Chaconne from Violin Partita No. 2 which stresses its beauty as well as its solid architecture.
Chan obviously takes great delight in her selection of six Preludes, Op. 28 of Chopin. Her performances stress the formal elegance combined with an inherent restlessness in No. 1 in C Major as well as the fragile beauty of No. 13 in F-sharp, a dreamy nocturne in all but name. No. 6 in B minor, marked Lento assai, evokes a cello in the pianist's left hand, while No. 17 in A-flat minor is given a wonderfully luminescent treatment. Chan does a splendid job sustaining the songlike beauty of No. 21 in B-flat Major, marked Cantabile, and No. 15 in D-flat Major, marked Sostenuto and paced to perfection in this performance"
Phil Muse, Audio Video Club of Atlanta - November 2009
"Played with conspicuous refinement Doming Lam's Moonlight Over Spring River emerges as a delicately scented soundscape..."
BBC Music Magazine - December 2009
"[Chan] has a natural sense of what's important in [the Chaconne]."
American Record Guide - September / October 2009
"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
"[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 (comments on Susan Chan’s New York début recital in Weill Recital Hall) - November 2000
"an energetic advocate for contemporary music."
The New Yorker
PROGRAM NOTESDoming Lam was born in Macau, received his musical education in California and Toronto, and has been spending a large part of his career in Hong Kong. In this piece, Lam uses a popular ancient melody with the original name of The Flutes and Drums at Sunset, The Pipa of Shin-Yang, or Moonlight at Shin-Yang. He selected six out of the original ten sections of the melody and wrote them in the form of variations in 1971. Through this piece the composer expresses his hope that the younger Chinese generation would enjoy and perform Chinese music as well as disseminate the best of Chinese music overseas. This traditional sounding piece imitates on the piano the sound qualities of the Chinese chin (zither) and pipa.
Japanese composer Somei Satoh enjoys a fine international reputation, especially in the United States, where several of his pieces have been premiered and performed. Satoh, who came from a musical family and attended Nihon University in Tokyo, was mostly self-taught, and is very interested in the prolongation of a single unit of sound through repetition. A very unconventional piece, Incarnation II is made up entirely of tremolos in the lower range of the piano. The music seems to come from nowhere, develops through a gradual and stepwise sliding motion of notes from one chord to the next, reaches two climaxes, and subsides back into nothingness. This piece shows the deep influence of Shintoism and Zen Buddhism, and seems to take the audience on a journey of meditation.
Memories in an Ancient Garden and Warrior are two of three pieces in Chinese Canadian composer Alexina Louie’s Scenes from a Jade Terrace, commissioned and premiered by Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker. The haunting Memories explores the coloristic possibilities of the piano by using glissandi and harmonics on the strings as well as palm clusters on the keys. The work is striking in its colors as well as its fusion of Eastern and Western philosophy and musical language. Varied temporal organization and Oriental-sounding scales, harmonies and textures result in a rich symphonic poem expressed through the piano.
Prelude in B minor was transcribed by Alexander Siloti from a short E minor Prelude in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Clavier-Büchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, written for the instruction of his oldest and possibly favorite son. Reminiscent of the Prelude No.1 in C major from The Well-Tempered Clavier I, the music progresses gradually in the form of broken chords. The hidden melody in the middle of the texture is brought out in the repeat.
"Sheep May Safely Graze" was originally an aria for soprano in Cantata No. 208, entitled "Hunting Cantata" or "Birthday Cantata", which Bach composed for the birthday of Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfels in 1713. The serene and pastoral character of the music is well preserved in Egon Petri’s transcription and reflects the text of this aria: "Sheep may safely graze where a caring shepherd guards them. Where rulers govern well, we may feel peace and tranquility, and the country will prosper."
"Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring" is the title of a chorale movement from Bach’s Cantata No.147, entitled "Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life", written in 1716. As in the original chorale, the passage with triplet figures and the choral passages are first presented in alternating fashion, after which they are interwoven in the texture and build steadily to a climax toward the end of the piece. In this transcription by Kempff, the melody is ingeniously stated in the tenor and alto ranges as the piece unfolds.
Published in 1839, the set of Twenty-Four Preludes, Op.28, was mostly composed from 1837 to 1838, when Chopin and George Sand were staying in Majorca and were in the earlier stages of their tumultuous relationship. Most of these Preludes contain an individual musical and emotional character that is often displayed briefly and undeveloped within the piece, almost in the style of a sketch, and several of them contain a contrasting idea in the middle section. Yet they all contain a high degree of emotional intensity, showing expressions of melancholy, agitation, longing, passion, and joy. Using all twenty-four keys in major and minor forms, these pieces clearly show Chopin’s deep reverence for Bach, who wrote two books of The Well-Tempered Clavier, each of which consists of 24 Preludes and Fugues. While Bach arranged his pieces chromatically, Chopin put his pieces in the order of relative keys and the circle of fifths.
In 1893, Ferruccio Busoni made this brilliant transcription of the Chaconne, which was originally the final movement of J.S. Bach’s Partita in D minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1004. Busoni was a composer, conductor and virtuoso pianist famous for his grand and poetic playing. While his transcription, for the most part, faithfully preserves the structure of Bach’s original violin version, Busoni transformed the piece by infusing his piano version with touches of orchestral sonority. Bach wrote the piece in 1720 shortly after the death of his wife Maria Barbara. As shown by German musicologist Helga Thoene, various symbolisms and hidden chorale melodies related to the Christian belief in death and the life beyond can been found in the work, which suggests that Bach may have written the piece as an epitaph for his wife.
* * *
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.
Doming Lam (b.1926)
The Chiming Bells of River Tower / Moon Over East Mountain / Flowery Shadows / The Distant Chirps of Dawn / The Returning Waves / Homeward Boat
Somei Satoh (b.1947)
Alexina Louie (b.1949)
J.S. Bach (1685-1750) [trans. Alexander Siloti, 1863-1945]
J.S. Bach [trans. Egon Petri, 1881-1962]
J.S. Bach [trans. Wilhelm Kempff, 1895-1991]
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
J.S. Bach [trans. Ferruccio Busoni, 1866-1924]