MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Jenny Lin Plays Solo Stravinsky


What a refreshing listen: I’m getting quickly addicted to the Taiwan-born pianist Jenny Lin’s new release, which is the latest to come out on Arkiv Music’s Steinway & Sons label. It’s devoted to Stravinsky’s music for solo piano — along with a delightful mini-Firebird suite of three movements arranged by Guido Agosti for keyboard.

Yes, over the past year my ears have been oversated and oversaturated with Stravinsky’s orchestral music, especially the three big Russian ballets. But Lin has put together a nifty program that brings a fresh focus to the Russian’s musical thinking and evolution.

Lin’s crisply incisive attacks and sheer sense of fun are all part of a style shaped by musical intelligence and determination. And her playing shines light on Stravinsky’s concept of counterpoint as well as the ingenuity of his rhythmic inventions.

In his excellent booklet essay, Ben Finane quotes Stravinsky on his first forays into the jazz idiom, as manifested in the delirious Ragtime for 11 Instruments (1918), included here in a version transcribed by the composer:

My knowledge of jazz was derived exclusively from copies of sheet music, and as I had never actually heard any of the music performed, I borrowed its rhythmic style not as played, but as written. [so much for oral versus literary tradition.] I could imagine jazz sound, however, or so I like to think. Jazz meant, in any case, a wholly new sound in my music, and ‘L’Histoire’ marks my final break with the Russian orchestral school in which I had been fostered.

Pieces like the Piano Sonata of 1924 offer a fascinating glimpse into Stravinsky’s rethinking of Baroque and Classical elements — not just by way of cheeky “allusion,” but as knowingly perverse swervings from the paradigm. So, too, with his quasi-Bachian counterpoint and ornamentation that, to borrow Finane’s apt phrase, are “tempered with a saboteur’s delight.”

(c) 2014 Thomas May. All rights reserved.

Filed under: CD review, piano


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