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The Classical Elements
Albert Tiu (piano)
rec. 2015, Concert Hall, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, Singapore
CENTAUR CRC3503 [79:45]

Born in the Philippines, Albert Tiu studied in the US (at Juilliard and at the Boston Conservatory) and is now a professor of piano at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, Singapore. In recent years Singaporean pianists have made quite a splash on the international music scene; native Singaporeans Margaret Leng Tan and Melvyn Tan are two who have forged their reputations outside Asia, and in two very different but distinct musical worlds. Tiu is one of a large handful who have chosen to remain in Singapore and are helping to create a thriving musical environment both in the city and the region while making their mark further afield. Tiu does have his own Unique Selling Point, and that is his very imaginative and far-sighted approach to programming. This disc is a classic example of that.

Avoiding composer-centric or even stylistically-unified themes, he takes his inspiration from outside music, and in this case has used an exhibition of Impressionist paintings put on at the National Museum of Singapore to fashion an intriguing and surprisingly effective programme. I was lucky enough to hear some of the original concerts given in the museum surrounded by the great works of art on loan for the occasion, and it was a very special event indeed. But how much of that was down to the immediate physical environment and how much down to Tiu’s music-making was not really clear at the time. Here, shorn of visual distraction (or stimulus), the programming is revealed to be profoundly inspired. Most especially is Tiu’s remarkably instinctive grasp of the wide field of musical styles and idioms over which he has cast his net. These may all be “Impressionist” works, but within that broad notion, they cover a huge range of styles and ideas – from Rachmaninov to Berio, from Liszt to Mompou, from Debussy to Godowsky.

The programme is grouped into four elemental sections, “Earth”, “Air”, “Water” and “Fire”, each comprising five pieces from five different composers each of which offers up a very different take on the element in question. For “Air”, as an example, Berio’s Luftklavier evokes a “mysterious haze” (to quote from Tiu’s own highly readable booklet notes), Ibert’s Le vent dans les ruines is altogether more obvious as a musical picture and Messiaen’s Un reflet dans le vent… takes us into an altogether more spiritual atmosphere. Yet there is nothing at all incongruous about their juxtaposition here, and while Tiu negotiates the stylistic chasms which sometimes seem to open up between adjacent pieces with complete ease and assurance, he also achieves the remarkable feat of making them sound distinctive and individual while never once losing that sense of coherence which makes for a most satisfying programme.

There are some particularly noteworthy performances here – a glittering account of Louis Brassin’s highly virtuoso transcription of the Feuerzauber from Wagner’s Die Walküre and a rarely-heard movement from Mompou’s Java Suite (adding a touch of regional colour to this predominantly French programme). And such is the nature of listening to a CD that there will, of course, be those who are tempted to re-programme their players to hear selected items from the programme - and those who do should certainly make sure they include Griffes The Night Winds, a fabulous rarity, Mompou’s El Iago in which time almost seems to stand still in a performance of exquisite poise and tranquillity, as well as Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau which gets here about the most compelling interpretation I have heard on disc. But those who avoid the programme as a complete entity miss out on the great achievement of this new recording; Tiu’s imaginative and deeply perceptive programme delivered with profound understanding and great musical sensitivity.

Marc Rochester
Franz LISZT (1811-1886) – Waldesrauschen, S145 No.1 [4:25]
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938) – The Gardens of Buitenzorg (from Java Suite) [3:16]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) – Lilacs, Op.21 No.5 [2:24]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) - …Les collines d’Anacapri (Préludes bk.1) [3:04]
Luciano BERIO (1925-2003) – Erdenklavier [1:29]
Claude DEBUSSY - …Le vent dans la plaine (Préludes bk.1) [2:14
Charles GRIFFES (1884-1920) – The Night Winds, Op.5 No.3 [1:59]
Luciano BERIO – Luftklavier [2:54]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962) – Le vent dans les ruines [2:42]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992) – Un reflect dans le vent (from 8 Préludes) [5:39]
Claude DEBUSSY – Reflets dans l’eau (Images bk.1) [5:53]
Luciano BERIO – Wasserklavier [2:13]
Federico MOMPOU (1893-1987) – El Iago (from Paisajes) [5:11]
Franz LISZT – Le jeux d’eau a la Villa d’Este (Années de pèlerinage vol.3) [7:56]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) – Jeux d’eau [5:56]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) arr. Louis Brassin – Feuerzauber [4:42]
Luciano BERIO – Feuerklavier [2:50]
Claude DEBUSSY - …Feux d’artifice (Préludes bk.2) [4:28]
Alexander SKRYABIN (1872-1915) – Vers la flame: Poème, Op.72 [6:45]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946) – Danza ritual del fuego (El amor brujo) [3:43]



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