In contrast to Joel Fan's previous mixed recital for the Reference label (World Keys), West of the Sun focuses on composers of the Americas, stopping short of Canada. Fan is just marvelous. His extroverted swing and idiomatic phrasing brings Ernesto Nazareth's Vem cá, Branquinha to vivid life, followed by equal virtuosic flair and color throughout Gottschalk's Suis Moi! Caprice. Similar comments describe the pianist's treatment of Villa-Lobos' Chôros No. 5, while the difficult double notes of Amy Beach's Fire-flies boast attractive light and shade.
Troubled Water is a bravura arrangement of the traditional spiritual Wade in the Water, and Fan makes its best possible case. Fan also perfectly illuminates the dark underpinnings and rhythmic snap in Piazzolla's Flora's Game, while serving up what may be the best characterized recording available of Ginastera's First piano sonata. While certain pianists treat its ostinato finale in a machine-like fashion, Fan's subtle inflections deliver more musically satisfying goods. Bolcom's clever, pianistically resourceful eclecticism delights in his Nine New Bagatelles, and inspires Fan accordingly, especially in the quieter, more lyrical movements. Although more individually shaped Barber Sonata interpretations grace the catalog (Earl Wild, John Browning, and Marc-André Hamelin, for example), Fan's rock solid, impeccably controlled and impassioned reading is never less than world-class. A well-curated, excellently engineered program of this caliber warrants our highest recommendation.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Here is a review from "Acoustic Sounds":
Joel Fan's second album for Reference Recordings, further solidifies his reputation for innovative programming and dazzling keyboard technique. Drawing on composers from North and South America, Fan makes brilliant work of major sonatas by Ginastera and Barber, along with "entertainments" by Gottschalk, Piazolla and Villa-Lobos. Of particular interest are two little-known works by Amy Beach and the African-American composer Margaret Bonds. Another highlight is the world premiere recording of a recent suite by William Bolcom! Any piano enthusiast will enjoy this wide-ranging recital, recorded at Skywalker Sound by RR's renowned technical guru, "Prof." Keith O. Johnson. World Keys, Joel Fan's debut CD, hit the Billboard chart at No. 3, so expect great things from this new release.
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Labels: acoustic sound, acoustics, audiophile, classics today, Joel Fan, Reference Recordings, reviews, West of the Sun