Woman at the New Piano Press

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.”

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.”