Pianist Vicky Chow Cultivates Vast Arsenal of Sound in 'A O R T A'

Monday, November 21, 2016

'Vicky Chow: A O R T A' "Vicky Chow: A O R T A" (New Amsterdam Records)

A O R T A, the latest solo album by pianist Vicky Chow, features music by six composers – Andy Akiho, Christopher Cerrone, Jakub Ciupinski, Jacob Cooper, Molly Joyce, and Daniel Wohl – with whom Chow has enjoyed longstanding collaborative relationships.

Fittingly, the album makes an impression as a deeply personal statement from the stalwart proponent for contemporary music. “I wanted to create an album about light, love, emotion and humanity,” Chow says. A O R T A certainly succeeds in reaching the listener’s heart; even more so, the album titillates the ear with its vast arsenal of sounds.

The album begins with Cerrone’s Hoyt-Schermerhorn, a quiet love letter to New York City (if perhaps an illegible one to you Manhattanites). A series of chords wades through a haunting resonance, punctured by stray dissonances and skittering electronics, evoking a long ride home on the G train in the wee hours. Digital effects create entrancing aural illusions in Cooper’s Clifton Gates, which likewise nods to a Brooklyn locale, as well as to John Adams’s Phrygian Gates.

Joyce’s Rave begins on a similarly atmospheric note, but proceeds to lead the ear on a tumultuous sonic journey; the artfully developed electronic component rewards, and slowly ravishes, the attentive listener. Another standout on the album is electronics wizard Ciupinski’s four-movement Morning Tale. The work’s ascetic melodic and harmonic material allows the ear to focus on Ciupinski’s brilliantly varied piano-and-electronics textures.

Akiho’s Vick(i/y) (written for Vicky Chow and Vicki Ray), for prepared piano, makes for a shrewd finale to the album: after traversing such an expansive spectrum of electronic sounds, Akiho’s reimagination of the piano, sans electronics, results in A O R T A’s most richly colored and affecting piece. The composers have a first-rate advocate in Chow, whose piquant pianism breathes life into the lush sound world they have imagined.

Vicky Chow: A O R T A
New Amsterdam Records | Released Nov. 18

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