The Poetry of Places Press

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…”