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Con brio recordings  

Images of Three Centuries
Alberto GINASTERA (1916-1983)
Sonata for Piano [14:33]
Mark FISH (b. 1969)
Three Ages of Woman [6:00]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images Book 1 [15:19]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition [32:24]
Aileen Chanco (piano)
rec. 2005, Hollcraft Studios. DDD


This disc of solo piano works by the Juilliard educated Aileen Chanco gives her ample opportunity to showcase her considerable talents as a pianist. An interesting choice of repertoire works well. Each piece is collectively of substance, however many of the individual movements themselves can only be described as miniatures – this, however, shouldn’t particularly bother the listener to any real extent.

The disc opens with the two most recent works of the four presented, the second of which (The Three Ages of Woman) was commissioned from Mark Fish by Chanco herself. The first piece is the four movement First Sonata by the Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera. Ginastera’s predilection for using Argentinean folk music as a significant influence in his music is vivid. To this are added elements of serial technique and the rhythmic and harmonic flair of Stravinsky. Chanco immediately shows a specific connection with the more recently composed works and this continues into The Three Ages of Woman. These two works clearly give Chanco more opportunity to display the intense virtuosity that is one of her specialities. This panache is not so evident in the two remaining Romantic works on the disc, which are, however, still executed with a generous helping of musicality and ability.

A musical portrayal of the Klimt painting of the same name, The Three Ages of Woman – here in its first recording – is in three movements – Reminiscences of the Old Woman, The Mother, Awake, and Child. Mark Fish cleverly and effectively depicts each of these in music that is deeply descriptive. In terms of the performance and repertoire combined, this work perhaps provides the most interesting music. A strong Romantic influence pervades the work, which is also infused with more recent techniques and a hint of blues in the harmonic template.

The particularly close recording, overly-bright sound and lack of resonance in the final result - which suggests a venue with little to no ambience - unfortunately do not go hand in hand with the subtle nuances of the Debussy Images Book 1. The performance is accurate and clear and a sufficient amount of passion has been poured into this interpretation. That said, there is still a slight feeling of naivety and one feels that it may not make a huge impact in comparison with some of the more obvious recordings of this music. In the context of this disc though, it provides welcome and further well-considered variation.

The pace of the disc is noticeably slowed with the final work (Pictures at an Exhibition). The first two movements are suitably interesting, majestic and animated, but towards the middle of the work the interest comes and goes. A few occasions of uneven playing and slightly lopsided rhythms become apparent; only the slightest flaw in Chanco’s otherwise mostly impeccable playing.

Adam Binks





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