WEST OF THE SUN–Music of the Americas

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

In contrast to Joel Fan’s previous mixed recital for the Reference label (World Keys–type Q10191 in Search Reviews), West of the Sun focuses on composers of the Americas, stopping short of Canada. Fan is just marvelous. His extroverted swing and idiomatic phrasing brings Ernesto Nazareth’s Vem cá, Branquinha to vivid life, followed by equal virtuosic flair and color throughout Gottschalk’s Suis Moi! Caprice. Similar comments describe the pianist’s treatment of Villa-Lobos’ Chôros No. 5, while the difficult double notes of Amy Beach’s Fire-flies boast attractive light and shade.

Troubled Water is a bravura arrangement of the traditional spiritual Wade in the Water, and Fan makes its best possible case. Fan also perfectly illuminates the dark underpinnings and rhythmic snap in Piazzolla’s Flora’s Game, while serving up what may be the best characterized recording available of Ginastera’s First piano sonata. While certain pianists treat its ostinato finale in a machine-like fashion, Fan’s subtle inflections deliver more musically satisfying goods. Bolcom’s clever, pianistically resourceful eclecticism delights in his Nine New Bagatelles, and inspires Fan accordingly, especially in the quieter, more lyrical movements. Although more individually shaped Barber Sonata interpretations grace the catalog (Earl Wild, John Browning, and Marc-André Hamelin, for example), Fan’s rock solid, impeccably controlled and impassioned reading is never less than world-class. A well-curated, excellently engineered program of this caliber warrants our highest recommendation. [5/7/2009]

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Recording Details:

Album Title: WEST OF THE SUN--Music of the Americas
Reference Recording: None for this collection

Works by Nazareth, Gottschalk, Piazzolla, Ginastera, Villa-Lobos, Beach, Bonds, Bolcom, & Barber -

  • Joel Fan (piano)

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