Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Fryderyk Chopin, Wendy Chen|
Listen to Samples
We know about Chopin, but WHO is Wendy Chen? ???
Dan Fee | Berkeley, CA USA | 12/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wendy Chen studied with Leon Fleisher at Peabody in Baltimore, and others. She has won numerous young artist and other music competitions, and is getting an active concert career under way. There is another Wendy, Wendy Fang Chen - she, too, deserves your attention even if she is not this Wendy. This Wendy has apparently been growing from strength to strength, ever since she debuted with the L.A. Phil under then music director Andre Previn.
Her keyboard wizardry is strong, poetic, and entirely magical. I am picky about the Chopin Ballades, since their brevity entirely belies their mysterious depths. How the composer could say so much in small pieces that last ten minutes or less is a lesson for all of us in life, even for composers now working in modern idioms that seem far removed from the high Romantic Era.
For unknown reasons, this CD programs the Ballades exactly in reverse order, starting with four, then three, then two, then one. The less often heard Bolero by Chopin initiates this recital, with the equally infrequent Barcarolle helping to wrap things up. Ms. Chen ends with the Andante spianato and grande polonaise, solo piano version.
Her tone is unfailingly big, round, and rich. The stereotype of women pianists, usually something to the effect that they can only manage a dainty pallette and must express their musical thoughts in scaled down dynamics because of their physical limitations, has no place here. Part of this lovely tone no doubt has to do with the worth of the instrument that Ms. Chen plays on this recording, as well as the success of the engineer in capturing that piano sound with enough air to remind us of the piano's Romantic heritage as a dramatic and singing instrument. Sadly, the CD notes fail to identify either the piano or the venue. The label is a specialty label that hints at being based in the Los Angeles, USA, region; so maybe that's where this excellent recital was recorded.
Ms. Chen has much more to offer than just a big tone. She can carry herself up the keyboard and down the keyboard with high accomplishment and not a little aplomb. She sounds like a young adventurer who stakes her flag on high hills where we get glimpses of wide windswept vistas, and in leafy valleys where we suddenly understand repose from spiritual as well as physical perspectives.
All this drama, with all this light and shade, brings her Chopin to vivid life without a split second's doubt or hesitation. Her rubato is flexible, like a great singer's phrasing; and nothing she does strikes your ear as misjudged. Counterpoised with the typically Chopinesque Romantic drama so necessarily declaimed in the Ballades, Ms. Chen also unfolds these musical narratives with an uncommon sense of almost casual, offhand intimacy. In some moments, you may find yourself thinking that you are seated in a small audience in a room at George Sand's Nohant estate, where you could be listening to Chopin himself or a prized student ... probably a baroness or a countess ... help pass the evening hours with new and old works.
Listening to this and other discs ... do a search for Wendy Chen ... you will be very glad this poetess didn't have to move to Europe to pursue her genius. A fresh and beguiling performance of the Grieg and Schumann concertos is available on a budget disc. Lately, she has teamed up with outstanding young Canadian violinist James Ehnes, to record some French violin sonatas. If you can, catch her live. In any case, you probably won't be sorry if you also buy her recordings, this one included. Five stars. Welcome, Ms. Chen. We hope you will have a long and rewarding career, with plenty of chances to record mainstream repertoire, as well as nooks and crannies of music whose composers interest you."
This is talent at its BEST
miosgood | Davidson, NC | 02/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have never written one of these amazon reviews but I thinkthis talented lady deserves mentioning. I have actually seen herperform in person and I was floored. I have heard many pianists and Ihave seen many concerts and I feel that this lady gave probably thebest performance I have witnessed. This recording will blow you away.The music is good enough by itself, and she makes it even better.Please do yourself a favor and buy this CD. It will really improveyour day and maybe even change the way you think about music. I amserious. She is that good."
Don't judge a CD by its cover
John Grabowski | USA | 01/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This CD is an oddball creation. From the looks of it, the very young Wendy Chen is just another bimbette selling her pouty looks more than her artistry. The inside is not reassuring, as we are treated to more photos of Ms. Chen with her head cocked and her lips puckered. The slightly sexually-suggestive title of the disc doesn't help, either.
"They laughed when I sat down to play." Ah, but then you put on the CD, and Ms. Chen blows you away with some great pianism. The Ballads alone are worth the price of the whole thing, although for reasons as inexplicable as the tacky photography they have sequenced them in reverse order. Ballade number Four comes first, then Three, then Two... Seriously, whoever is managing her career is on drugs.
She's a bit of a mystery. Taiwanese and born in 1971, she attended Juilliard and was a student of Leon Fleisher. She's made a few more albums since this one and seems to be presented more recently as a serious artist who doesn't have to get by on a pout and bare shoulders, but still, she should be better-known than she is, even in this dog-eat-dog world of classical music that for some reason is so enamored over mediocrities like Lang-Lang. Chen plays these pieces with clarity, beautiful line, and deeply-felt emotion that does not drown Chopin in perfume. Although the Third Ballade and the coda to the Fourth both fall somewhat flat for me, and although she can be a little too "rounded" in her approach, avoiding anything remotely percussive in how she strikes her chords, overall these are fine performances--better than, say, Zimerman's somewhat overly-mannered accounts. They won't make me forget Richter or Cortot or other Romantic piano gods, but this is worth adding to your library when you want a break from The Usual Suspects.
The album also has the advantage of offering some fresh works we rarely hear from Chopin, such as the aforementioned Bolero and the Andante Spianato. While hardly his best, it's nice to have something different rather than the usual Polonaises and Waltzes and Mazurkas we get on almost every Chopin piano album.
Sound is crystal clear and beautiful. Only the packaging is cheesy. If Ms. Chen wants to be taken as a serious artist, she will need a different image than this. If she just wants to be another Vanessa-Mae tart, why the serious programming?
One final thought: the piano sound here is stunningly realistic. The illusion is of a concert grand on the stage in a fine hall. Why can this low-budget indie label achieve this magnificent realism when DG and other biggies turn out over-processed, phony-sounding recordings?"