Tony Chen Lin’s Digressions

Review by: Jed Distler

RAT-D080-3000

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Pianist Tony Chen Lin understandably tries to explain and justify why he’s brought these particular four compositions together for a recital disc. Yet he doesn’t need to, because they add up to a wonderfully contrasted program.

Opening with Bartók’s Piano Sonata guarantees attention, especially considering Lin’s grounded rhythm and decisive articulation in the outer movements. In addition, he successfully reconciles the central movement’s sustained lyricism and forceful “pesante” qualities. Lin also strikes a happy balance mixing and matching legato cantabiles and clipped detaché phrases through Bach’s G major French Suite. My only half-quibbles concern an overly fast Bourrée, plus rhythmic mannerisms in the Gavotte and Loure.

While Lin displays plenty of sensitivity and musicality in Schumann’s Humoreske, I miss the textural clarity and marked contrasts in mood that other pianists bring out. In the rapid Sehr Lebhaft section, for example, Lin shifts focus between the perpetual motion 16th notes and the bass lines in a seemingly random manner, compared to Claudio Arrau’s impeccable alignment and transparency.

Although Lin’s Digression purportedly draws upon Schumann for inspiration, his sparse, slow-motion language and telling use of silence and long decaying resonances superficially follow the Morton Feldman/Toru Takemitsu playbook. Yet Lin’s strong creative personality is borne out in the music’s purposefulness and careful craftsmanship. Dare I say that I find Lin to be a more interesting composer than pianist? I look forward to hearing more of his own music!



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Recording Details:

Album Title: Digressions
Reference Recording: Bartók Sonata: Kocsis (Decca), Bach French Suite No. 5: Perahia (DG), Schumann Humoreske: Horowitz (RCA); Lupu (Decca)

BÉLA BARTÓK: Piano Sonata
J.S. BACH: French Suite No. 5 in G major BWV 816
TONY CHEN LIN: Digression (Meditation on R.S.)
ROBERT SCHUMANN: Humoreske Op. 20

  • Tony Chen Lin (piano)

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