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Watercolor / Shen Lu

Release Date: 08/14/2015
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30039
Composer:  Chen Peixun ,  Maurice Ravel ,  Sergei Rachmaninov ,  Tan Dun Performer:  Shen Lu Number of Discs: 1
Recorded in: Stereo Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins.

Chinese pianist Shen Lu has won numerous international piano competitions. His gold prize at the 2014 Hilton Head International Piano competition includes this collaboration with Steinway & Sons – a debut recording from an exceptional young artist. A native of Jiangsu, China, Shen Lu has performed concerts at Beijing’s Central Conservatory Music Hall, Culture Center and City Hall, Weill Recital Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York, Jordan Hall in Boston, Severance Hall in Cleveland, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, The County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, Flagey Concert Hall in Brussels, and the Seymour Centre in Sydney. Watercolor highlights Shen Lu’s specialty in contemporary Chinese repertoire and his passion for the great Read more French and Russian piano works of the 20th century.

R E V I E W:

"Watercolor is a recital that bookends familiar masterpieces of 20th-century Western piano music (Ravel’s Miroirs, and Rachmaninoff’s Op. 33 Etudes Tableaux) with piano music by Chinese composers Chen Peixun and Tan Dun. The first piece, Chen Peixun’s Impressionistic Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake, was not familiar to me, but the fluidity of Shen Lu’s passagework and trills was very impressive.

Entering into the more familiar territory of Ravel’s Miroirs, it did not take me long to conclude that there was an awful lot of Walter Gieseking’s approach in Shen’s Ravel. For many listeners, Gieseking’s 1950s EMI recordings are the gold standard in Ravel, so, that is by no means a bad thing.

However, it is in Rachmaninoff’s Etudes Tableaux that Shen shines most brightly, I think—in particular, No. 3 in C minor. There is a plangent quality to the slow upper-octave melody in the middle section that most of today’s hot-rodding young pianists don’t seem to be able to convey.

I must take a moment to praise the recorded sound, courtesy of Virginia’s Sono Luminous studio, which records in a church from the early 1900s. New York Steinway D grand piano, of course; and it is in a very enviable state of setup and tune. I have heard many of Steinway’s CD releases these past few years. For me, in terms of sonics, the “picks of the litter” are Alan Feinberg’s Basically Bull, and Shen Lu’s Watercolor. Both were recorded at Sono Luminous, by Daniel Shores. Bravo.

Watercolor is one of the most exceptional solo-piano recordings of the past several years."

-- John Marks, The Tannhäuser Gate

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"Distinguished pianist and 2015 Dublin International Piano Competition winner Shen Lu presents an excellent documentation of his award-winning recital program during Watercolor. The 22 compositions offered on his debut for the Steinway & Sons record label are masterful interpretations of works composed by Maurice Ravel, Sergei Rachmaninov and Tan Dun. Most of these priceless, imaginative works for solo pianist evoke water imagery and were inspired by a variety of people, places, nature and events.

Watercolor opens with Chen Peixun’s arrangement of the 1930s Chinese folk song titled Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake. It has a very gentle melody that suggests the downstream movement of water rippling over sedentary stones in the lake. Shen Lu plays this piece impeccably and as you listen, you can imagine the rippling textures as symbolized by the arpeggios and trills. Simply beautiful.

The lovely music continues with Maurice Ravel’s five movement piece titled Miroirs. Ravel wrote this amazing work for solo piano in 1905 as a tribute to members of the French avant-garde artist group known as Les Apaches. The first movement is titled Noctuelles ("Night Moths") and was dedicated to Léon-Paul Fargue. As Shen Lu plays this chromatic work he maintains its dark, nocturnal mood via calm chordal melodies that reveal his distinctive virtuosity. The second movement "Oiseaux Tristes" (Sad Birds) is dedicated to Ricardo Viñes. This particular movement represents a lone bird whistling a sad tune but it also has several moments that capture water imagery. Shen Lu's exemplary technique beautifully captures the symbolism in this piece.

Ravel returns to a water theme with the third movement titled “Une barque sur l’ocean" (A Boat on the Ocean). This popular movement was dedicated to Paul Sordes. Shen Lu’s interpretations of the arpeggiated sections and sweeping melodies are very concise and can also be interpreted as his own maiden voyage through a technically difficult set. The final two movements do not depict water images per se but are impeccably performed.

Rachmaninoff’s Etudes Tableaux, Op. 33 was written in 1911 and is comprised of 8 etudes. Shen Lu’s finesse and energy are enough to consume these difficult compositions and as a result, he offers the listener an excellent recapitulation of Rachmaninoff’s final works for solo piano."

Shen Lu ends Watercolor with Tan Dun’s Eight Memories in Watercolor, Op. 1. This splendid work combines the instinctive musical abilities of both masters and gives the listener an appropriate conclusion to this excellent program."

–- Paula Edelstein, AXS

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From Steinway & Sons' growing catalog of personal and beautifully recorded piano recitals comes this one from Chinese pianist Shen Lu, whose training includes stints in Beijing, Boston, and Cleveland. Chinese musicians are said to be seeking out American teachers as a way of adding freedom and originality to their thinking, and that seems to be what's happening here. Some might find more crackling versions of, say, Ravel's Miroirs than the one delivered here by Shen, but it fits in with the rest of the program in a way that keeps listeners absorbed to a degree than another instance of mechanistic virtuosity might not. The program maintains a theme of "impressionistic" depiction, filtering it through the East/West divide and through subdivisions of each. It's nice to compare the technically similar but emotionally quite different depictions of rippling water in Chen Peixun's folk-based Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake (track 1) and Une barque sur l'océan of Ravel (track 4). The unusual work here is the set of Eight Memories in Watercolor, Op. 1, of Tan Dun, written just as China was reopening to the West after the Cultural Revolution. Rachmaninov's rather Russian-flavored Etudes Tableaux, Op. 33, are arguably more exotic to Western ears than Tan Dun's mood-oriented landscape miniatures. They're quite different from what those familiar with Tan Dun's large orchestral canvases might expect, but their concision pointed the way to the composer's future success. Chinese music has reached a point where listeners worldwide can follow the course of a composer's career as they do with those in the West, and that's just one of the intriguing features of this enjoyable culture-crossing release.

-- AllMusic Guide Read less