Select Reviews for Nadia Shpachenko’s Invasion: Music and Art for Ukraine program (September 23, 2022 release)

Huntley Dent, Fanfare Magazine
“At once a moving response to war and a shining testament to imagination”

“Exceptional release… Calling upon her friend and sometime collaborator, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lewis Spratlan, Shpachenko commissioned Invasion, which is scored for piano and chamber ensemble. My expectations of grim, angry music were overturned by Invasion, whose three sections, lasting 12 minutes, don’t echo the stark bleakness of wartime Shostakovich, or any other war music I can think of. Instead, Spratlan has concocted a dream-like musical experience that looks into a cultural mirror. Menacing drumbeats last only a few seconds before elements of jazz and folk music enter, and the restless piano part adds a layer of frantic but also exciting motion. I kept thinking of the layering of texts in a palimpsest—in this case the layers are simultaneously like Kurt Weill cabaret, drummers marching to war, drunken slip-sliding, a pianist trying to compete with artillery shelling, and the resilience of music-hall song and dance in the face of a black midnight.

What makes Invasion specifically tailored to this release, whose proceeds are being donated to Ukrainian aid relief, is the very absence of unrelieved sorrow, although mournful horn, trombone, and saxophone solos appear prominently in the second part. Shpachenko has filled every page of the booklet with paintings by Ukrainian artists, including the most remarkable creations of children, alongside reflections by these artists on Spratlan’s five works here… Invasion, composed in direct response to the war, is one of the first and most fascinating responses to events in Ukraine…

Shpachenko’s playing is spectacular, constantly swinging from bravura flair to inward reflection as the music demands… The major piano work, at 20 minutes, is Wonderer… It is a scintillating tour de force. The overall effect of Wonderer is exhilarating and emotionally satisfying, to the point where I hope it joins the standard repertoire among contemporary pianists. Shpachenko’s reading is close to ideal in its variety, quick-wittedness, and tenderness… The outstanding contemporary-music disc of the year.”

Guy Rickards, Gramophone, UK

“Lewis Spratlan’s Invasion is a raucous, volatile tone poem… Invasion is the music of indignation and outrage, its combative nature (it does have a more contemplative central section) mirrored in the scoring, with broadsides of drums, brass fanfares, and the maniacal presence of the mandolin which, with the piano, seems to indicate a human presence amid the mechanistic carnage. The performance is powerful… Shpachenko audibly has a deep understanding of Spratlan’s compositional processes, and – in writing all bar Wonderer for her – he clearly has an appreciation of her pianistic abilities… each individual part is impressive, and mostly haunting.”

James Manheim, AllMusic

“The piece titled Invasion is not a wartime dirge but a mix of elements overturned by the war, “a counterpoint of moods — between ominous undercurrents, folkloric touchstones, and a modernist ‘authorial’ commentary,” in the words of annotator Peter Yates. This work is echoed in the Six Rags for solo piano, which are not classical piano rags but juxtapose ragtime rhythms with modernist passages in various ways, and in the final Wonderer for solo piano, a work likewise depicting a journey through a trauma-strewn landscape. The artists’ “reflections” included suggest other resonances the program may have in time of war. This is certainly one of the first releases to reflect the war in Ukraine; it may go down ultimately as one of the richest and best, and it serves also as a reference for the remarkable late-life creativity of Spratlan…”

Kate Rockstrom, Readings, Australia

“[Invasion is a] compelling piece with a lyrical middle section that allows each instrument a moment of expression. Meanwhile, pulsating piano chords continue the sense of unease before the piece explodes again into rage, grief and a whirl of emotions that must resonate with all these musicians, as well as the people of Ukraine… There is a clarity to Shpachenko’s performance here that took me by surprise. With precision she takes us on a journey through music in all its forms, from delicate moments in the Piano Suite through to the athletic prowess of the Piano Sonata’s first movement. However, it is her ability to convey the humour and sadness juxtaposed at the heart of ‘Six Rags for Solo Piano’ that shows Shpachenko’s true musical genius… Invasion is a truly contemporary album, with piano, war and raw emotion at its centre. This is not an album to put on in the background, it is something to really listen to: music to make you think, and art at its most powerful.”

Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine
“These are all World Premiere recordings, making this an invaluable release, while Shpachenko is magnificent”

“Spratlan’s music is viscerally exciting, a sonic representation of (understandable) anxiety via a preponderance of gesture. The performance is as good as one could imagine… (Six Rags) This is a remarkable set of miniatures, played brilliantly by Shpachenko, who understands exactly when to bring back the innocence of ragtime within a far deeper context… and now Spratlan so expertly juxtaposes the two. This set is worthy of investigation by pianists on the hunt for new repertoire… (Wonderer) Spratlan’s virtuosity in moving between tonal references (as memory) and spikier, post-Prokofiev toccata is fascinating, and Shpachenko’s virtuosity in realizing this ideal is remarkable. This is a terrific performance of a wonderful piece; it is worth hearing this disc for Wonderer alone… Recommended unhesitatingly.”

Rafael de Acha, All About the Arts
“Invasion” is “Best of 2022” Pick

“(Invasion) An emotionally charged, boldly dissonant, intensely descriptive composition… When the composer stops the musical satire and the bucolic reflections, as in the bluntly harrowing opening Invasion or as in the closing Wonderer, we hear the impassioned Spratlan, utterly familiar with and fully able to put into music the sounds of tragedy… Gratitude is due to Lewis Spratlan and to Nadia Shpachenko, soulmates against man’s inhumanity to man.”

Don Clark, Pictures on Silence
“Invasion” is No. 1 recording of 2022

Invasion features world premiere recordings of the music of Lewis Spratlan, especially noting his chamber work, Invasion written in March 2022 as the war was raging… the work is nothing but gripping, powerful and exceptionally colorful, using the unusual combination of instruments to full effect.”

Peter Burwasser, Absolute Sound Magazine

Invasion… seems to depict a small band playing old fashioned club music (a mandolin suggests the music of the balalaika) that quickly begins to disintegrate into dissonant fragments, symbolizing the nightmare of an unimaginable act of violence.. Wonderer… adds a fleeting aura of hope to a dire situation.

Paul Muller, Sequenza21

Invasion is an evocative and powerful musical snapshot of the war in Ukraine. Perhaps this is the opening movement of a work that will ultimately give us a heroic and victorious final ending.”

Harry Rolnick,

“Using Scott Joplin as his foundation for Six Rags was genius. The results were purely original… He used Joplin-style rags within each of the six pieces. They could be blatant–and played with dynamic impetus by Ms. Shpachenko–or hidden amongst a forest of intervals.”

Select Articles/Interviews for Nadia Shpachenko’s Invasion: Music and Art for Ukraine album

Hilary Seabrook, Harmonious World Podcast, UK (audio interview, available for listening on multiple platforms, including Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, and 16 others)

Gianmarco Del Re, A Closer Listen Ukrainian Field Notes XIX (interview and article)

Kabir Sehgal, 7 Point Sunday Blog

“Listen to Invasion: Music and Art for Ukraine by Nadia Shpachenko. Masterpiece! A pianist who grew up in Soviet Ukraine, the California-based artist partnered with composer (& Pulitzer winner) Lewis Spratlan. She commissioned Ukrainian artists to make paintings inspired by the music. A “very personal album,” Nadia said. My favorite tracks: “Speck Pond Rag” & title track. Nadia’s practice routine (8 hours/day growing up but now…)”

Stas Nevmerzhytskyi, The Claquers Article, Kyiv, Ukraine (In English)

Stas Nevmerzhytskyi, The Claquers Article, Kyiv, Ukraine (In Ukrainian)

Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio New Classical Tracks (audio interview, 5 minute and 27 minute versions at this link)

Mary Claire Murphy, National Public Radio Classical Conversations (audio interview)

Rhonda Rizzo, No Dead Guys (interview and article)

“From the title track, “Invasion,” to piano rags, suites, and sonatas, Spratlan’s music and Shpachenko’s sensitive playing lays bare the horror of war, yet never ignores glimmers of optimism. It is music that both highlights and transcends the Russian invasion, always pointing toward a brighter future. As Shpachenko states, “Hope is what we need to never lose, especially in seemingly impossible and unresolvable situations.” I’m deeply honored to feature Nadia Shpachenko, this cause, and this beautiful album on No Dead Guys.”

Interview on Ukraine’s largest TV Station 1+1 (live broadcast video interview, English subtitles)

Interview on Voice of America (video interview, in Ukrainian)

Select CD Reviews for Nadia Shpachenko’s The Poetry of Places program (March 2019 release)

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
“Pianist Shpachenko premieres music with a sense of place”

“In The Poetry of Places, the gifted and versatile pianist Nadia Shpachenko premieres a remarkable lineup of 10 new works… It’s a winningly loose concept, and the music that results covers a wonderfully diverse stylistic range, from the disruptive shifts of tone in Andrew Norman’s Frank’s House… to the psychedelic whizzing and swooshing of Lewis Spratlan’s Bangladesh. In between come a collection of other delights, including a beautiful porcelain creation by Amy Beth Kirsten involving a toy piano and childlike crooning, and Hannah Lash’s tender Give Me Your Songs… the thematic consistency turns out to be less interesting than the compositional voices on display, and the technical flair and expressive commitment that Shpachenko brings to all of it.”

Anne Goldberg-Baldwin, I Care If You Listen
“Nadia Shpachenko’s The Poetry of Places Explores Architecture as Inspiration”

“An album of solo and duo piano, electronics, and percussion, The Poetry of Places is a superb assemblage of works by various composers. Each piece, inspired by a particular building, weaves together a collage of place and time, and Shpachenko’s evocative interpretations bring insight to the composers’ visions… One of the highlights of The Poetry of Places is Hannah Lash’s Give me your Songs, a multifaceted illustration of Aaron Copland’s house. The songful fragments of material weave and intermingle with one another, creating a fabric that stitches together the cascading off-centered structure and winding pathways surrounding his home. Shpachenko sensitively approaches each attack with breathless understanding of music and place, transporting the listener to upstate New York and through the historic passageways of the house. … Another true standout of the album is Amy Beth Kirsten’s h.o.p.e., inspired by The Big Hope Show in 2015-16 at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. … The moment Shpachenko sings in child-like naivety is pure magic, as the unison slowly breaks and unravels into unison once more, painting the rebirth of spirit and hope in subtle brilliance. … Through the entire album, Shpachenko’s dedication to each work is abundantly clear. Her clean, crisp attacks ring delicious in the ear while the lush garden of warm rumblings evoke the imagination to far off places and civilizations. Her supporting cast of composers and performers enrich The Poetry of Places‘ diversity and nuance, creating a focused, coherent narrative through which to travel.”

Paul Muller, Sequenza21
“Nadia Shpachenko – The Poetry of Places

The Poetry of Places is an impressive collection of new works by outstanding contemporary composers, performed by first-rate musicians… Frank’s House [by Andrew Norman] is a wild musical ride through an artistic mind unburdened by limitations… In Full Sail [by Harold Meltzer] smoothly alternates between the serious and the sprightly, with lighthearted stretches bubbling up from under the darker passages. The continuing contrast between introspection and whimsy is an effective metaphor for the constant interplay between responsibility and exhilaration while at sea, as well as in our daily lives… Sí an Bhrú [by Jack Van Zandt] is a wonderfully atmospheric piece with each element carefully crafted and lucidly performed… Hannah Lash’s Give Me Your Songs for solo piano is a return to the solid virtues of the gentle melody and simple harmony, expressively played… The simplicity of materials and the engaging nature of the rhythms make h.o.p.e. [by Amy Beth Kirsten] a fine tribute to the transforming power of art… Alone, in waters shimmering and dark [by James Matheson] is a carefully crafted portrait of nature and solitude, delicately played… There is power and strength, a bit of the mystical, a bustling energy and a determined stridency, all artfully woven throughout the piece. Bangladesh [by Lewis Spratlan] is an impressive rendering of formal architecture into eloquent music… Kolokol [by Nina C. Young] is a beautifully crafted piece that brings the listener face to face with an aural touchstone of Russian history.”

Ron Schepper, Textura Magazine
“Textura Sees Nadia Shpachenko Recordings as Trilogy”

The Poetry of Places could easily pass for the final part of a trilogy, so complementary is it to Nadia Shpachenko’s previous Reference Recordings releases, Woman at the New Piano (2014) and Quotations & Homages (2018). In all three cases, the intrepid pianist tackles challenging new works by a host of innovative composers, and while the concentration is on solo piano, pieces featuring two pianos, percussion, electronics, voice, and toy piano aren’t uncommon. As she’s done before, Shpachenko shows herself to be one of today’s foremost promoters of contemporary music. … Shpachenko’s exceptional technical command is on full display throughout the recording (see Bangladesh for incontrovertible evidence), though never gratuitously so. Her focus is wholly on rendering the composer’s material into physical form with integrity and in accordance with their intentions. As satisfying as it is to experience The Poetry of Places as a stand-alone, in a perfect world Shpachenko and Reference Recordings would issue it with the two earlier releases as a box set. Listening to all three in sequence reveals even more clearly how compelling the work is that she’s released in a half-decade span.”

Peter Burwasser, Fanfare Magazine
“A Great Friend and Champion of New Music”

“As was the case with Nadia Shpachenko’s previous Reference Recordings project, Quotations and Homages, this release features a broad range of contemporary voices, with a scintillating mix of daring sound, genuine beauty, and a commodity too often missing from the new music world: humor. … The CD concludes, appropriately, with a chorus of Russian Orthodox bells… It sounds like a celebration, as does the cumulative effect of this remarkably diverse and thoroughly engaging collection. Nadia Shpachenko is a great friend and champion of new music.”

Rafael de Acha, Rafael’s Music Notes
The Poetry of Places is a Celebration of New Music!”

The Poetry of Places… is a celebration of new music featuring a formidable pianist in the company of top practitioners in the field. … Throughout The Poetry of Places, Nadia Shpachenko valiantly navigates the now tranquil, now tumultuous waters of eight new works, six of them commissioned by and dedicated to her. … Set aside for a moment the technique and musicianship it takes to learn and then master Harold Meltzer’s In Full Sail, an intriguing study in musical pointillism. Meltzer’s work tackles a pianistic description of Frank Gehry’s IAC building in New York’s Chelsea. Then simply focus on the poetic sensibility and musicality required to play Meltzer’s music, and you will begin to get an idea of the accomplishments of Nadia Shpachenko. … Mixing and remixing the bell sounds with multiple virtual pianos [on Nina C. Young’s Kolokol], the resulting collage defies traditional concepts of harmony, melody and counterpoint, and creates in their place a sonic tapestry that brings Nadia Shpachenko’s The Poetry of Places to a jubilant ending.”

Steven Kennedy, Cinemusical
“Architecture and Musical Poetry”

The Poetry of Places is a truly fascinating collection of original music for piano that demonstrates a great variety of approaches. The thematic thread that runs through the album helps create a secondary connection to the music and invites the listener in on a journey through these different spaces. Shpachenko’s technical virtuosity is on display throughout here. She is very adept at making the requisite shifts in tone that this music demands with some rather beautiful lyrical playing that is equally gorgeous in the midst of some of the more visceral pieces. The Reference engineers have captured this in their typical stunning sound. The accompanying booklet is another great asset with pictures of each location and information about the conception of each work. Certainly this is an important album for any music lovers interested in modern piano literature.”

Dean Frey, Music for Several Instruments
“Projections into special places”

“Those new forces are evident in each of these World Premiere works by eight composers, in this marvellous disc from pianist Nadia Shpachenko. Each of the works is about a special place, with music interacting with a wide range of human activities: fine and applied arts (architecture and design), the heritage arts and the natural world… Each of these works is memorable, and beautifully played by Shpachenko… This is a marvellous project, well worth exploring.”

Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine
“Visual and Aural Poetry”

“The idea of reacting to spaces is the thread that snakes through this fascinating recital. Programming is clearly a strength of Shpachenko, as her disc Quotations & Homages spoke of a similarly adventurous spirit. The superbly produced booklet gives fine background information to the pieces and composers, in tandem with a selection of photographs worth the price of the disc alone. … Shpachenko’s performance is little short of brilliant, the playful aspect almost seeming to capture glints of light from the building as one passes by. … The keyword to this disc is in its title: poetry. There is visual poetry in the images, compositional poetry in the responses that form this program, and performance poetry via Shpachenko. One might even argue that there is a generally unnoticed poetry in the excellence of the recording, which is magnificently managed.”

Alex Baran, The Whole Note
“Nadia Shpachenko – The Poetry of Places

“The variety of this repertoire is remarkable. Shpachenko performs a veritable tour of structures ancient and modern, producing extraordinary colours and textures from her Steinway D. Her composers sometimes add a second piano, voice, a toy piano, percussion and electronics to build their works. … Each composer provides a few notes on the subject of the commission and it’s immediately striking how much common ground they share with Shpachenko on this abstract challenge. The strong affinity between the principal performer and the composers has produced a thoroughly engaging disc.”

Charisse Baldoria, The Piano Magazine, Clavier Companion
“Nadia Shpachenko – The Poetry of Places

“With the experience of space at its core—and the piano at its heart—this album presents works by living composers inspired by buildings and spaces from Ireland to Santa Monica, Baltimore to Bangladesh, and Massachusetts to New York. The result is an expertly produced multimedia project distilled into sound that startles and transports the listener in waves and jumps (Norman’s Frank’s House), through passage graves (Van Zandt’s Sí an Bhrú), personal trauma (Kirsten’s h.o.p.e.), and melodic mazes (Lash’s Give Me Your Songs). It locates places in time and music in space, evoking culture, and even projecting a nation’s hope (Spratlan’s Bangladesh). Shpachenko and her co-performers’ intuitive musicianship bring it all to life… spot-on performances, excellent engineering.”

Jed Distler, composer/pianist, Gramophone and critic

“As in her two previous releases, Nadia Shpachenko’s devotion to the music of her time yields vividly contrasted and dazzlingly executed collection of stimulating new piano works. Everything about this disc is world-class: the extensive booklet notes and photos, the clear and full-bodied engineering, and, of course, the incisively committed performances by Shpachenko and her guest artists.”

“The Poetry of Places” Live Performances Reviews

Harry Rolnick,
“The Poetry of Places: Newly-written compositions inspired by diverse buildings”

“The sextet of accomplished composers worked with solitary houses on lakeside islands, an anomalous monolith in Dhaka, the world’s oldest extant building, the complex interior of Aaron Copland’s home, and a unique art museum. How these composers conceived these structures in sound, whether giving them literal measurements or spiritual ideas…that was the challenge of this music, nearly all of it dedicated to Ms. Shpachenko herself. They couldn’t have chosen a more apt executant. While residing mainly on the West Coast, Ms. Shpachenko has given premieres for Elliott Carter, George Crumb, and virtually every other American composer. Last night, though, Ms. Shpachenko played not only these six very different concepts, but she added a toy piano and–in a beautiful croon–her own voice… The result was something magical, a vision which transcended building and, like any art, put us in the mood… truly original… mysterious and touching…”

George Grella, New York Classical Review

“With the setting sun backlighting the backdrop of the skyline of lower Manhattan, Shpachenko delivered a pleasing concert of music written about architecture… Shpachenko’s playing matched the verve of the writing, and she was in tune with the subtle but substantial sensitivity in the music… The music was full of unexpected passion and turmoil… There was terrific, thrusting energy… Through Shpachenko’s fluid performance the piece was easily heard as absolute music, an exploration of how rhythms, phrases, dynamics, and excellent counterpoint all work together to make invisible structures…”

Brin Solomon, New Classic LA

“We’re living in a time of great stylistic plurality, a time when certain older systems of composing have lost the sway they once enjoyed and new ones haven’t quite arisen to take their place. Shpachenko helped show that — there are definitely styles that she didn’t have room to feature, but no two of the works she played take the same approach to melody, harmony, and form… It was a fitting reminder that masterworks do come out of this bubble and strife, and a subtle affirmation that some things being written now may well be touchstones of the repertoire in another ninety years.”

Select review quotes for Nadia Shpachenko’s Quotations and Homages program (April 2018 release)

Marc Medwin, Fanfare Magazine

“…a superb and superbly recorded program of pieces as fresh as they are ready to pay respect to the traditions that led to their creation… Shpachenko’s playing is everything it needs to be and more… Eras seem not to exist for her, and neither does musical dogma, allowing her the freedom to speak the music’s multifarious dialects.”

Steven Niles, New Classic LA

“The genius of this album is in its effortless flow. Each work follows naturally from one to the next. Though unified by the common theme of homage, each piece is wholly individual and unrelated to the others, enabling continuous listener attention… The concept is creative, the program well constructed, and Shpachenko’s pianism is of the highest caliber. The recording is sure to remain a mainstay of the contemporary discography for posterity.”

Peter Burwasser, Fanfare Magazine

“Shpachenko is a brilliant and thoughtful artist. There is a huge range of dramatic and technical effects within this collection, and she captures them all with remarkable precision and expressivity… In all, this is a most invigorating and distinctive release.”

Ron Schepper, Textura Magazine

“Rare, not to mention refreshing, is the classical recording that balances seriousness with humour… [Shpachenko] executes all the material with conviction, her connection to the material unwavering no matter the works’ differences. Above all else, there is joy in her playing, and it transfers infectiously to the listener.”

Don Clark, I Care If You Listen

“Nadia Shpachenko‘s new Reference Recordings album Quotations and Homages is a clear winner… Coming on the wings of her Grammy-nominated album Woman at the New Piano: American Music of 2013, also on Reference Recordings, Quotations and Homages showcases Shpachenko’s prodigious pianism and her ability to conceive and execute innovative and accessible programs… Shpachenko’s technique and interpretation are above reproach… The album is a fascinating and approachable glimpse into the music of then and now realized through the hands and mind of a most interesting and dedicated musician.”

Dacia Clay, Second Inversion

“Shpachenko’s love of playing—both with toys and on her piano, and sometimes, with her toy piano—is part of what makes her new album, Quotations and Homages, so much fun to listen to. She’s got this wide-open sense of adventure that comes across not only in her playing, but in the pieces she commissions and the composers from whom she commissions them. (Shpachenko seems to choose composers by their willingness to be co-conspirators in her exploits as much as for their compositional aptitude.) An album of pieces that pay homage to everyone from Messiaen to the Velvet Underground? Yes! A piece inspired by Stravinsky called “Igor to Please” written for 6 pianists on 2 toy pianos, 2 pianos, and electronics? Yay! Let’s do it!”

“Quotations and Homages” Live Performances Reviews

Paul Muller, Sequenza21
“Nadia Shpachenko at Art Share LA”

“A bountiful offering of extraordinary piano music combined with highly skilled performances… 6 Fugitive Memories is a remarkable exposition of historical and influential musical voices, expertly realized by Ms. Shpachenko… The wide variety of density and colors make Rainbow Tangle a well balanced tribute to Messiaen’s landmark work… Down to You is Up makes effective use of the Velvet Underground material without being derivative, creating a sparkling, original work… Epitaphs and Youngsters is a well-balanced multimedia work that memorably captures the essence of its subjects in music, visual art and words… Ms. Shpachenko sat quietly and seemed to gather herself before attacking the keyboard, issuing blizzard of rapid notes from the piano that filled the air with an amazing variety of complex sounds – for about ten seconds [in Piano Piece for Mr. Carter’s 100th Birthday]… Bolts of Loving Thunder displays an impressive range of emotions and exuberance in keeping with a great tradition… Igor to Please is visceral and exciting, an amazing ensemble of electronics and piano that calls for virtuosic skill by the soloist… Accidental Mozart was received in good fun and showcased Borecki’s acute sense of musical style and arrangement.”

George Grella, New York Classical Review
“Pianist Shpachenko brings strength to wide range of living composers”

“The latest example was pianist Nadia Shpachenko, nominated for a Grammy for her CD Woman at the New Piano: American Music of 2013. Coming in from Southern California, she brought a program of nine different pieces, “Quotations and Homages,” all of recent vintage, including six world premieres Sunday night. The works are responses to music of composers of the past. Despite the conceptual framework, the music covered a broad range of styles—almost entirely tonal. Shpachenko herself is a strong player, with a touch that gives weight and solidity even at low dynamics…

Waller consistently makes interesting and unusual work of the tools of minimalism, as in this fine new piece. Over a rising bass ostinato, Shpachenko gracefully played a long-limbed melody that sounded more attractive with each note… More direct, and in a way more personal, was Daniel Felsenfeld’s punchy Down to You is Up… the Velvet influence mainly comes through in the meaty passion of the music. It gets wild at times, and Shpachenko played with plenty of power… the highlight of the concert was Tom Flaherty’s Rainbow Tangle… Shpachenko played expertly with and through the electronics, shaping the dynamics into a rich ambient sound… eminently worthwhile concert from Shpachenko and her fellow composers.”

Steven Niles, New Classic LA
“Pianist Nadia Shpachenko Honors Audience in Homage-Themed Recital at Sound and Fury”

“Nadia Shpachenko’s obviously masterful recital last Saturday concluded the second season of the estimable new music series, Sound and Fury Concerts on a high note. Delivered with an authority and unhesitating know-how that left no room for doubt, Shpachenko’s virtuoso program of new music for piano—both solo and electronically fleshed—revealed how convincingly present-day composers can match the prestidigital feats of Liszt and Chopin. Simultaneously, universal statements on life and art, expressed in a heartfelt lyricism still resounding almost audibly, emerged to elevate the afternoon event into something profound… Shpachenko’s thoughtfully ordered offering of uniformly winning pieces, centered on a theme of “quotations and homages,” was an homage to the audience—an inviting, overflowing musical cornucopia, impacting listeners all the more directly in its uninterrupted flow.”

Select review quotes for Nadia Shpachenko’s Woman at the New Piano: American Music of 2013 CD (November 2014 release)

Don Clark, Pictures on Silence

Woman at the New Piano is an album with a surely cosmic purpose… this prodigiously talented, California-based pianist and teacher, has recorded a delightful and diverse program of brand new works she commissioned in 2013 from four outstanding composers, Tom Flaherty, Peter Yates, Adam Schoenberg and James Matheson… Arresting, dramatic, exhilarating and sometimes briefly serene, [Tom Flaherty’s] “Airdancing” stretches the listener’s imagination and challenges the ear while being accessible and frankly smile producing enjoyable… Shpachenko makes a most convincing case for [Adam Schoenberg’s Picture Etudes] and we are unlikely to get such a definitive, affectionate recording soon. [James Matheson’s Cretic Variations]… a powerful, lyrical and demanding set of variations. Another work that can, and should, become a staple of recitals and programs… Stellar performances, usual fine Reference Recordings sound throughout, informative liner notes and a most varied and energetic program make “Woman at the New Piano” a clear winner and a new favorite here.”

Ron Schepper, Textura Magazine

“An exceptional recording of newly composed piano works… Shpachenko renders [Peter Yates’] jazz-tinged “Mood Swing” with the elegance and poise of a Bill Evans, brings out the joyful jaunt of “Gambol,” rides the ragtime roller-coaster “All Better” with elan, and shows in the tenderly wistful setting “Mysterious Dawn” that the most powerful music needn’t be loud to have an impact… Given the involvement of multiple composers, Woman at the New Piano is naturally diverse. Though dramatic stylistic contrasts between works emerge, Shpachenko’s passionate rendering of the material unifies it on this special recording. Clearly a labour of love.”

Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International

“[Adam Schoenberg’s] Picture Etudes, each based on famous painters, are catchy, witty and apt. “Three Pierrots” catches the clownish spirit of the Albert Bloch original, which shows the Pierrots dancing. “Miró’s World” is a bit jazzy, a bit silly and a whole lot anarchic. Think of the Miró on the cover of Brubeck’s Time Further Out. The last two works are longer, including an impressionist tone-picture depicting Van Gogh and very much in the style of Debussy, Séverac or Pierné… At the other end of the emotional spectrum is James Matheson’s Cretic Variations, a fourteen-minute epic series of variations on the long-short-long spoken rhythm. It’s a tour de force. The chords and harmonies sometimes remind me strongly of Brahms and Prokofiev, while the breadth and scope inevitably call to mind Bach’s Chaconne. Despite those echoes, it’s still a very original success… Nadia Shpachenko plays excellently through the whole album… If there’s a downside to this release, it’s that we might start expecting a new one every year. Nadia Shpachenko has done heroic work here, and the composers provide stimulating listening.”

Paul Muller, New Classic LA

“[Peter Yates’ Finger Songs] is like a candy sampler with all sorts of moods, tempos and techniques packed into small, bite-sized packages, Ms. Shpachenko extracting the full flavor of each. Picture Etudes for Solo Piano by Adam Schoenberg is an amazing collection of four short movements… [James Matheson’s] Cretic Variations is a remarkable journey, full of mood swings and changes of pace, all expertly played… Woman at the New Piano is a generous helping of new piano music by four contemporary composers covering a wide range of feelings, moods and techniques. Ms. Shpachenko and Genevieve Feiwen Lee have skillfully combined to produce a memorable recording.”

Brian Olewnick, Just outside

“[Nadia Shpachenko] impresses very much as a pianist with a light, crisp touch and a way of keeping the music flowing very cleanly… [Tom Flaherty’s Airdancing] is a rapidly scampering piece with innumerable cross-rhythms, influenced, probably via Cage and Harrison, by southeast Asian traditions… Beautiful playing from each musician… [Adam Schoenberg’s Olive Orchard] wows, just a heartbreakingly gorgeous melody… this music carves out its own space, direct and moving… played with extreme sensitivity by Shpachenko… Schoenberg’s “Bounce,” which concludes the disc, is for two pianos (again, Lee joins in) and is a delightful romp… the execution sounds flawless… the music is so infectious… A very engaging set.”

Ralph Graves, Off Topic’d and WTJU

“Tom Flaherty’s Airdancing for toy piano, piano, and electronics, uses the toy piano both as a tinny melodic instrument and as a metallic non-tonal percussion instrument. The exotic timbres reminded me strongly of Harry Partch’s music. Flaherty’s second work, Part Suite-a, uses thick tone clusters throughout, but with more major seconds than minor second groupings, softening the dissonance in an appealing way. The Picture Etudes of Adam Schoenberg is a suite of four short vignettes that seemed to have echoes of Martinu in some sections. And the addition of the bass drum and gong work (played by the pianist) are both understated and quite effective in their use. His work Bounce concludes the recital, a work for two pianos that sounds like it was a lot of fun to play (it certainly was to listen to). Cretic Variations by James Matheson is the longest work on the disc (14 minutes), and is a jazzy, percussive and thoroughly modern delight. Nadia Shpachenko collaborated in the creation of these works, giving her an emotional investment and empathy with them. She conveys that empathy with sure, insightful delivery.”

James Manheim, AllMusic

“Pianist Nadia Shpachenko took the erroneous Mayan apocalypse predictions of 2012 as a starting point, posited a new era of pianism beginning the following year, commissioned new works from four composers, and worked closely with them on the works’ genesis. The result is a set of four pieces that seem tied together even though the styles of the four composers are quite different from one another. The common element, perhaps, is the humor implicit in the overall concept. Tom Flaherty’s Airdancing is written for the unusual combination of piano, toy piano, and electronics, with the toy piano in the unlikely role of mediator between the pianistic and electronic realms; and the same composer’s Part Suite-a gently spoofs Baroque idioms. Peter Yates’ Finger Songs are lightly jazz- and blues-infused pieces that take up where Debussy and Ravel left off. The Picture Etudes of Adam Schoenberg (apparently no relation to either Arnold or Claude-Michel) developed out of a different commission, one for a contemporary Pictures at an Exhibition, and each is evocative of the style of a different modern artist. Schoenberg’s Bounce is a playful romp inspired by children’s antics. The Cretic Variations of James Matheson are weightier but do not disturb the basic continuity. Reference Recordings’ engineering work at Pomona College is excellent, and Shpachenko’s involvement in the music does not cloud her accurate playing. Recommended.”

Andrew Quint, The Absolute Sound Magazine

“Reference Recordings garnered seven nominations for the 2016 Grammy Awards, including two for Woman at the New Piano. The disc premieres six works written in 2013 by four composers, three of whom, like Shpachenko, live and work in the Los Angeles environs. Proposed for “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance” was Tom Flaherty’s Airdancing for Toy Piano, Piano, and Electronics, where Shpachenko is joined by another Angelino, Genevieve Feiwen Lee. (A “toy piano,” by the way, is a real instrument, like a toy poodle is a real dog.) The sonority ranges from eerie, gossamer-like beauty to mechanical ravings, sometimes evoking an Indonesian gamelan. Flaherty also provides Part Suite-a, two spiky, percussive movements surrounding a lullaby of sorts. Adam Schoenberg contributes Picture Etudes (a modern-day Pictures at an Exhibition) and the upbeat/majestic Bounce for two pianos. Finger Songs, by Peter Yates, registers as low-key jazz improvisation. Cretic Variations, by the New York composer James Matheson, thoroughly explores the possibilities of a poetic form known as “cretic foot.” Shpachenko and Lee perform the music with complete authority and they’re superbly recorded at 176.4/24 resolution in a 550-seat concert hall by Shpachenko’s husband, Barry Werger-Gottesman. Keith Johnson was the mastering engineer.”

Miscellaneous select review quotes for Nadia Shpachenko

Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times
(performance of Messiaen’s’ Catalogue d’Oiseaux)

“The 13 pianists brought their own levels of avian awareness. Genevieve Feiwen Lee (Alpine chough), Nelson Ojeda Valdés (blue rock thrush), Joanne Pearce Martin (rock thrush) and Nadia Shpachenko (curlew) played as though peering through binoculars, mapping birds, marveling from afar with an ornithologist’s objectivity.”

Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times
(performance of Xenakis’ Palimpsest)

“Xenakis’ work is a fascinating place to visit, as it builds and undoes its structure and engages in various sonic funhouse-mirror maneuvers. Our ears yearn to latch onto discernible themes or rhythmic grids, but they’re just beyond grasp. In short, it’s a test of musical perception. Pianist Nadia Shpachenko and timpanist Dave Gerhart were given workouts and rose to their tasks.”

Paul Muller, Sequenza21
(recording of Isaac Schankler’s Future Feelings for their album Because Patterns)

“The final track is Future Feelings and features pianist Nadia Shpachenko. This opens with a light, metallic wash in the electronics and swirls of strong piano notes. As the piece moves forward the piano dominates, unreeling clouds of lovely phrases played with that characteristically sensitive Shpachenko touch. Although quietly atmospheric, some drama is occasionally added when the piano dips into the lower registers in a series of rapid, descending scales. Soft beeping tones – clearly electronic – enter from underneath, yet these seem perfectly at home embedded within the lush melodies and warm textures of the piano line. The extravagantly beautiful playing of Ms. Shpachenko almost steals the show, but the subdued electronic presence is memorable precisely for how much it contributes to the warm sensibility of this piece. Future Feelings is exquisitely expressive music, with just the right balance of masterful playing and complimentary electronics.”

Nick Stevens, I Care If You Listen
“Isaac Schankler’s Because Patterns Explores Human-Electronic Relationships”

“As Schankler shares in an interview with liner-note author Meg Wilhoite, album closer, Future Feelings, reflects thoughts about nostalgia. Gestures from early twentieth-century piano music–some modern, and others joyfully and decadently Romantic–define the piece. Schankler takes up these musical languages with startling fluency, as does Shpachenko, whose versatility has become a defining virtue. Electronic sounds purr beneath and intrude upon the piano’s visions of a sparkling past. Initially a smear of static over Shpachenko’s ecstatic melodies, they morph into telegraph-like blips and, eventually, a menacing roar.”

David J Brown, LA Opus
“Twentieth Century Brits at Boston Court Pasadena”

“We were privileged to hear [Frank Bridge’s] Quintet for Piano and Strings in D minor, Op. 49, in which the Villiers Quartet were joined by Nadia Shpachenko (waiting like Brünnhilde in the wings, fresh to meet the hero in Act Three of Siegfried!). Originally composed in 1904-05, but radically revised in 1912, the Piano Quintet’s first movement opens, after a few hushed preparatory measures from all five players, with an upward-striving and to my ears slightly sinister main theme, piano e dolce, on the viola, played with husky intensity by Ms. Flores, over deep rolling arpeggios on the piano.

Here, Bridge shows the love of viola sound that he shared with many of his British contemporaries, but soon the other strings join in developing the theme, first singly and then in varying combinations, before the piano alone introduces the memorably romantic second subject. Bridge in this movement basically follows a sonata design, but with great inventiveness and, in this performance, a teeming passion led by Ms. Shpachenko’s fresh and steel-bright fingers.

It would be particularly instructive to hear the first version of the Piano Quintet if it still exists, because in his revision from four movements to three Bridge, among other changes, combined the two original central movements into one by enclosing the scherzo within the slow movement. The entirely beguiling result means that the memorably heart-on-sleeve romanticism of the Adagio ma non troppo main theme, sung first by all four strings, has no time to outstay its welcome before the Allegro con brio scherzo section arrives, nudged in by the piano. After a powerfully athletic climax, that romantic Adagio theme returns, even more sensuously haunting, on the ‘cello alone before all the players join in a gorgeously eloquent leave-taking.

Finally, with brook-no-argument intensity, the Villiers Quartet and Ms. Shpachenko tore into Bridge’s boldly rhetorical and satisfyingly concise finale, to bring this memorable concert to a conclusion with a real sense of new battles waiting to be fought.”

Paul Muller, New Classic LA
(performance of Yuri Ishchenko’s Piano Sonata No. 6 and other works)

Piano Sonata No. 6 (2007), by Yuri Ishchenko began with a Fantasia. Its strong opening and quietly mysterious melody made for a gloomy feeling. A bit of agitation animated the texture, leading up to a series of resounding chords. This pattern of quiet tension followed by increasingly anxious passages continued, especially in the lower registers where deep rumblings added a sense of menace. A marvelous Ukranian bleakness poured grimly out of the keyboard under Ms. Shpachenko’s steady hands. The dynamics and tempo increased just as the texture thickened, the notes rushing out into the audience like a dark, flowing torrent. A very rapid run upward and a solemnly quiet chord at the finish carried Fantasia to its conclusion.

The second movement, Imperativo, arrived with a bright, almost waltz-like tempo invoking a feeling that is both decisive and purposeful. The active phrasing, while often complex, never felt timid or nervous. The precise and nuanced playing impressed, especially in the quieter stretches, and a hint of Prokofiev lyricism emerged in the melodies. A new line in the lower register rose up in a complex wave, making its way through the middle piano keys and accelerated to an almost fugue-like intricacy. This is engaging music, aided by the expressive passages and a profusion of notes that roared outward at the conclusion. The final movement, Epilogo, proved much more subdued, with tentative notes and a vague feeling of uncertainty. Although brief and fittingly restrained, this movement contrasted perfectly with the preceding fireworks. As the last notes died away, much cheering and applause arose for this most energetic performance.”

Dennis Pond, Imperial Valley Press
(performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4)

“a brilliant pianist… spellbinding in sensitivity and mastery of technique”

Ralph Andrews, Pasadena Star News
(performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major)

“incredible performance full of emotions… virtuoso playing at its best”

Theodore Cashuk, San Diego Jewish Press Heritage

“Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, played by Nadia Shpachenko, was clearly the highlight of the evening. It is a demanding piece and Shpachenko was up to its difficult demands. Her attack and technique were excellent and she showed some fine musicianship. She was heavy-handed when she needed to be and light textured when that was called for… Overall, it was a pleasure to hear her performance. The beautiful third movement (“Andante”) was where she showed her musical heart. It was truly inspiring.”

Sherli Leonard, The Press-Enterprise

“Bright, inventive, imaginative, and rife with Gershwinesque chords, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major featured pianist Nadia Shpachenko and the sparkling work of piccolo, trumpet and percussion. [San Bernardino Symphony] Orchestra and soloist neatly handled the sudden meter changes, especially for the winds in the third movement. Shpachenko ably tackled every possible piano technique, and despite the piano’s thick voicing, gave amazing articulation to the staccato work and the warp speed arpeggios of the first movement. In the second movement, after the long, poignant opening solo, Shpachenko and Lynnette Kobernik on English horn raised the performance level to sublime on their long duet, with Shpachenko sensitively and lightly playing a deceptively difficult left-hand boom-chuck-chuck line throughout the movement.”

Dennis Pond, Imperial Valley Press

“The highlight of the evening was after the intermission when Nadia Shpachenko played Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor. She is a brilliant young piano soloist… Her rendition of the Rachmaninoff Concerto matched every preconceived idea of what is best in Russian piano music; it was lively and pyrotechnic, dark and brooding, delicate and sensuous… The balance between the soloist and the orchestra was superb. In the more delicate second movement, the pianist and members of the woodwind and French horn sections each had exquisite incidental duets. The music making was sublime.”

Dennis K. Robertson, Redlands Daily Facts

“Pianist Nadia Shpachenko captured Rachmaninoff’s nuances and introspective depths of feeling in her performance [of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2)… The exchanges between Shpachenko, Fetta, and the orchestra clearly showed a high level of communication between them… Shpachenko displayed a maturity of style and depth of emotion well beyond her young age.”

Mitch Sturman, Imperial Valley Press

“The opening work featured pianist Nadia Shpachenko… Her performance of the Emperor Concerto was polished and refined, with much care given to bring out the composer’s intricate contrapuntal inner voices. Her tone was full and rich throughout.”

Sala de Prensa, Baja California

“Bajo la batuta como director invitado de David Amos, la Orquesta interpretó también temas de Franz Joseph Haydn y Ludwig V. Beethoven, con una memorable participación de la brillante pianista Nadia Shpachenko quien hizo una verdadera gala de su virtuosismo… El público se mantuvo muy atento y emocionado hasta el final, donde disfrutaron del concierto Emperador, una pieza de Beethoven de trinta y siete minutos en los que la orquesta les regaló una de sus mejores interpretaciones, monstrando la belleza y complejidad de la musica del siglo XVIII, mientras que Shpachenko tocó cada uno de los temas con exquisitez y sensibilidad a flor de piel, transmitiendo su amor y pasión por la música.”

“Under the baton of guest conductor David Amos, the orchestra also performed pieces by Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig V. Beethoven with a memorable participation of brilliant pianist Nadia Shpachenko, who showcased her true virtuosity… The audience was very attentive and excited throughout, where they enjoyed the Emperor Concerto, a thirty-seven minute piece by Beethoven, in which the orchestra presented one of its best performances, projecting the beauty and complexity of the music of the 18th century, while Shpachenko played each of the themes with delicacy and sensitivity, conveying her love and passion for music.”

Richard Bammer, The Reporter

“Vacaville audiences – as audiences anywhere might – may be able to take contemporary music only in small doses, but there’s hope for more after Shpachenko’s concert. Her spirit and wiliness to take a chance, to be adventurous without apology, to introduce audiences to contemporary piano music like Crumb’s – and to play it exceedingly well and animatedly – make Shpachenko an important and significant emerging artist. She is a successor to Margaret Leng Tan.”

Richard Storm, Sarasota Herald Tribune

“The crime was perpetrated by narrator Robert Sherman, aided and abetted by Julie Landsman, horn, and Nadia Shpachenko, piano, both of whom played beautifully, as far as could be determined.”

Magdalena Baczewska, New York Concert Review

“The second movement Andante [of Mozart’s Sonata in F Major, K. 533], played with a beautiful tone set in a chamber mode, flowing, yet calm, showed the pianist’s good musical taste. I found the play of light and the shadow of the sonority very engaging… The New York premiere of the very demanding and effective Homage to Ligeti by Michael Garson was received with great enthusiasm.”

Florence Fisher, Sarasota Herald Tribune

“From the fiery beginning of the Allegro movement of Beethoven’s Piano Trio in D (Op. 70, No. 1), pianist Nadia Shpachenko’s brilliant clarity and pearly trills set the tone for the velvety sound of cellist Matthew Johnson and the lyrical violin of Tobias Steyman.”

Yaro Bihun, The Ukrainian Weekly

“When one of Washington’s leading art museums, The Phillips Collection, opened the much heralded exhibit “Modigliani: Beyond The Myth” on February 26, it scheduled a “lecture-recital” for the following day, titled “Music and Modigliani” and featuring pianist Nadia Shpachenko. Phillips is known for its modern art exhibits, as well as its concert series, but this coupling of the two art forms was a first for the museum, as its music program director told the audience in introducing the Ukrainian-born pianist. Ms. Shpachenko prepared a program of piano pieces by composers who were part of the circle of musicians, writers and artists in the Montparnasse area of Paris, where the Italian-born artist Amedeo Modigliani, the quintessential bohemian artist in early 20th century Paris, was known as “The Prince of Montparnasse.” As Ms. Shpachenko explained in the “lecture” introductions to the music selections, they were modern, light pieces, the kind that this group of artists would hear at concerts or while they dined and drank late into the night in the local clubs and restaurants in Montparnasse. On the program were “Cold Pieces,” “Truly Flacid Preludes (for a dog),” and “Three Distinguished Waltzes of a Jaded Dandy” by Erik Satie, who, along with Jean Cocteau, was a dominant force in the avant-garde music scene in Paris, Darius Milhaud’s suite of dances “Nostalgia for Brazil” and a tango from his “The Ox on the Roof,” as well as pieces by Francis Poulenc and other composers of that period.”