Piano Works

Andy Akiho, Claude Debussy, György Kurtág, György Ligeti, Olivier Messiaen, Scott Wollschleger




“[Jenny Q Chai] hopes that her listeners “see” the music in a multi-hued way (thus, the word play in the title, with the word “see” separated out of synesthete). Her attractive and innovative program suits this goal very well... Ultimately, such a concept album must succeed or fail on the merits of the performing artist, and Chai delivers the goods. She is an intrepid musician, both technically and intellectually, and her dazzling playing is both a great pleasure to listen to on its own merits, and in the pursuit of an elusive proposition.”
Peter Burwasser, Fanfare [May/June 2018]
“A piano-focused CD with a fascinating underlying premise features Jenny Q. Chai [who] plays all the works with enthusiasm and apparent enjoyment... listeners who share Chai’s attraction to these particular composers and these specific works will enjoy her sensitive, knowing handling of the material.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [January 2018]
“Jenny Q Chai demonstrated true affinity for contemporary music throughout the challenging program…playing with resourceful technique and sensitivity… her playing was admirable for its refinement and directness”
on Jenny Q Chai’s 2012 Zankel Hall recital

(S)yn(e)sth(e)te is an album exploring the relation between sound and color, the streams of colors from blue to orange. Synesthesia in music has been associated with composers throughout the history of music. Interestingly, many composers and musicians have specific associations with certain pitches and keys – E major, C minor, D major, etc – that can be drastically different from one another, or surprisingly similar. My synesthesia came on gradually, starting with certain notes and colors, but leading to connections with more impressionistic-like watercolors, that is, more of light and shadow, and the blended tones of colors. One thing is certain: synesthesia is an extremely personal experience to synesthetes.

In this album, I explore the different synesthetic experiences from a range of composers. For me, it is a stream of colors and moods, with the direction from blue to orange. Wollschleger’s Blue Inscription, Debussy’s slow Étude of fourths and Ligeti’s 2nd Étude are for me the blossoming of flowers as seen through the lens of time-lapse photography. The swift brushes of Debussy’s eight-finger Étude, the strong colors of Ligeti’s vehement Disordre and the spatial, sometimes-floral-sometimes-dark pieces by Kurtág remind me of Chiaroscuro. Akiho’s Crimson and Messiaen’s orange-infused music brings a kind of euphoria. For me, each composer has a highly individual synesthesia with each piece, introducing a different kind of association between sound and color. My wish is that the listener to explore this music, and discover their own personal synesthesia.

Are you a (s)yn(e)sth(e)te? Can you see?

An artist of singular vision, pianist Jenny Q Chai is widely renowned for her ability to illuminate musical connections throughout the centuries. With a deft poetic touch, Chai weaves this wide-ranging adventurous repertoire into a gorgeous and lucid musical tapestry, removing boundaries between eras. Her instinctive understanding of new music is complemented by a deep grounding in the works of Schumann, Beethoven, Debussy, and Ravel, and she is a noted interpreter of 20th-century masters such as Cage, Messiaen, and Ligeti. Chai’s career is threaded through with close collaborations with notable contemporary composers including Marco Stroppa, Jarosław Kapuściński, and György Kurtág. Notable performance highlights include her Carnegie Hall debut in 2012, performances at (Le) Poisson Rouge, lectures and recitals at the Shanghai Symphony Hall, the Leo Brouwer Festival in Cuba, and Philippe Manoury’s Zones de turbulences at the Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music. Chai often presents layered multimedia programs which explore and unite elements of science, nature, fashion, and art with radical joie de vivre and razor-sharp intention. She is a vital champion and early tester of the groundbreaking synchronous score-following software program, Antescofo, which offers real-time computer and animation response to live performance, enabling performers to create highly expressive multimedia presentations. Chai founded the FaceArt Institute of Music, a Shanghai-based organization which offers music educaion and international musical exchange. She serves on the Board of Directors of the New York City-based contemporary music organization Ear to Mind, and has published a doctoral dissertation on Marco Stroppa’s Miniature Estrose. Chai is the recipient of the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust 2011 Pianist/Composer Commissioning Project, the DAAD Arts and Performance award, and first prize winner of the Keys to the Future Contemporary Solo Piano Festival. She has two solo recordings, New York Love Songs and Life Sketches: Piano Music of Nils Vigeland, and can also be heard on Michael Vincent Waller’s Five Easy Pieces and Cindy Cox’ Hierosgamos.
Scott Wollschleger Blue Inscription
Claude Debussy Pour les quartes (12 Études pour le piano, III)
Claude Debussy Pour les huit doigts (12 Études pour le piano, VI)
Andy Akiho Karakurenai (Crimson) for prepared piano
György Ligeti Cordes à Vide (Études pour piano, premier livre, II)
György Ligeti Désórdre (Études pour piano, premier livre, I)
György Kurtág Bells for Margit Mándy (Játékok, Book V)
György Kurtág Les Adieux in Janáceks Manier (Játékok, Book VI)
György Kurtág Shadow-Play: Hommage à Somlyó György (Játékok, Book III)
György Kurtág Quiet Talk with the Devil (Játékok, Book III)
Olivier Messiaen Cantéyodjayâ

MSR Classics