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Classical Pianist Ruth Slenczynska Releases a Thoughtfully Lyrical New Album With a Record-Breaking Backstory

Pianist Ruth Slenczynska’s new album My Life in Music – streaming at Spotify – is an attractive and individualistic mix of standard repertoire and a handful of surprises.

She opens with a thoughtfully opulent take of Rachmaninoff’s Daisies, from his Romances, Op. 18 and follows with his Prelude No.5 in G major with its dancing, glittery righthand clusters. She plays Samuel Barber’s Nocturne (Homage to John Field) with a considered, brooding simmer. She gives a deadpan steadiness but also a determined grit to a considerably different, ragtime-tinged Barber tune, Let’s Sit It Out and Wait, from his suite Fresh From West Chester.

Slenczynska opts for a balletesque grace in Chopin’s Grande Valse Brillante in Eb, op. 18, eschewing the floridness so many other pianists give it, an approach that works equally well a little later in Grieg’s Wedding Day in Trodhaugen. And in her hands, her tenderly yet playfully articulated version of Chopin’s famous Berceuse is a revelation: those echo effects are irresistible. As is her generous use of space in an unselfconsciously unhurried interpretation of Debussy’s The Girl With the Flaxen Hair.

The other Chopin pieces here have similarly distinctive insights. There’s a lowlit Etude No. 3 in E Major, and a cheery, strolling Prelude in G Major, Op. 18. The longest and most energetic work here is the Fantaisie in F Minor: Slenczynska slows much of it down practically to dirge speed and volume, an effect which is both comedic and enlightening, as she picks up a remarkable amount of detail and dramatic contrast. She closes the album with a methodically articulated version of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C# minor, BWV 849.

Now for the punchline: Slenczynska is 97 years old. It is astonishing how undiminished both her chops and her ideas are.

She made her stage debut at four, her European debut at five. Every major pianist of the 1930s including Sergei Rachmaninoff was eager to coach her. She is his last living student; she treasures the Faberge egg necklace he gave her. She would go on to record ten albums and tour the world, earning a reputation as a very colorful, entertaining performer. This new album is her first in sixty years, undoubtedly a record-breaking achievement. Let’s hope she got at least a two-album deal out of it.

A Magical Midnight Stroll With Harpist Magdalena Hoffmann

Absent any central concept, harpist Magdalena Hoffmann’s new album Nightscapes – streaming at Spotify – is a gorgeous playlist of both original works for harp and imaginative transcriptions of solo piano pieces. How shadowy is it? As you would expect, it’s more on the slow and starry side, although Hoffmann hardly shies away from material whose technical demands push the limits of what’s usually expected of a classical concert harpist – or from nocturnes, for that matter. On some of the piano pieces, she essentially plays a dual role akin to rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist all at once, with bright melody over strummed rhythm.

The album opens with Respighi’s Notturno in G flat major, arranged for harp with a spare, warmly incisive melody above mutedly strummy chords. Hoffmann follows a very steady trajectory, finally cutting loose with some jaunty flourishes at the end. Her take of Chopin’s A Minor Waltz – the first of three of those pieces – is amazingly close to the piano version, complete with spiky grace notes. She gives a steady, sober grace to the E Minor Waltz, but watch out – that flurry before the third “verse” has an unexpectedly wild, flamenco tinge, hardly what you’d expect to hear on a concert harp. And her spare, poignant, clear-eyed interpretation of the A Minor Waltz, Op. 48 is a revelation, especially in contrast to some of the florid piano versions that have circulated over the years.

In Hoffmann’s hands, John Field’s Nocturnes in B flat and G major as well as Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Sogno for Harp come across as cheerily attractive lullabies. 20th century French harpist-composer Henriette Renié’s Danse des Lutins is one of the album’s rare gems: courtly rhythms, an architecture that looks back the baroque, but also a devious acerbity. Hoffmann then returns to more rapturous territory with Clara Schumann’s Notturno, Op. 6, rising to an unexpectedly emphatic intensity.

Britten’s Suite for Harp, a partita of miniatures, gives Hoffmann a launching pad for demanding leaps and bounds across the length of the harp, through some thorny basslines and moments of phantasmagoria. The most colorful and bewitching piece on the program is Marcel Tournier’s La Danse du Moujik, with its kaleidoscopic dynamics and ominously allusive chromatics.

The most outside-the-box arrangement here is the Nocturne for the Left Hand Alone, a methodically lyrical Romantic ballad by jazz pianist Fred Hersch. Hoffmann gets a workout after that, with Jean-Michel Damase’s dramatically ornamented Fantaisie on Motifs from Les Contes d’Hoffmann. All in the family maybe?

She closes the record with an incisive, methodical reworking of Chopin’s Nocturne in F sharp minor. Op. 48 No. 2, bringing the lights down, but not all the way.

A Vast, Darkly Colorful Collection of Short Piano Pieces From Nathalia Milstein

Pianist Nathalia Milstein’s latest album Visions Fugitives – streaming at Spotify – is aptly titled. It’s classical music as entertainment, a picturesque collection of short and often undeservedly obscure pieces by iconic composers.

But there’s a lot of detail in these small packages, and Milstein’s joy in unpacking them is visceral. In Bartok’s Out of Doors suite, she brings a gritty, punchy wit to the fife and drum interlude, a steady, rolling calm to the barcarolle, and insistent surrealism to the “musette,” a deliciously acerbic. chiming number that isn’t a musette at all. The Night’s Music is as full of ghostly moths and goofy poltergeists as anyone could wish for, setting up the cruelly challenging pointillisms of the chase scene, which Milstein handles with a stunning, steady resilience.

There are a grand total of 39 pieces here, far too many to enumerate. Milstein parses the album’s central suite of Prokofiev miniatures with lingering phantasmagorical restraint but also peek-a-boo humor, meticulously charging Romanticism and, forty-one seconds into the “ridicolosamente” moment, we get an iconic circus riff. There’s icy menace to rival Satie: Milstein deserves immense credit for recording this.

She brings a merciless irreverence to the tempo of Liszt’s Valse Oubliee No. 1, then puckishly attacks the bounding riffage and feathery staccato of No. 2. Her take of Chopin’s Mazurka, Op. 63 is rollicking, and playful, but just as sobering in the quiet moments.

The rarest works here are by Valery Arzoumanov. Highlights include an etude-like series of rapid spirals; a fleetingly chromatic “valsette;” Temple Invisible, a mystical, Near Eastern-flavored tableau; and a twisted, marionettish march.

Chelsea Guo Stars on Piano and Vocals on Her New All-Chopin Album

It’s impossible to keep track of how many pianists have sent their interpretations of Chopin here over the years. If only quality matched quantity. Serendipitously, Chelsea Guo’s new album Chopin: In My Voice – streaming at Spotify – is a relatively rare exception, a very smart, insightful collection of the 24 preludes along with the the Fantaisie in F minor and three selections from Chopin’s 17 Polish Songs. Those last three are on the program because Guo distinguishes herself not only as a pianist but as a soprano.

Guo’s use of rubato is masterful. She doesn’t overdo it, so when she loosens the rhythm, there’s always an impact, and her sense of where to weave this into her phrasing – this being Chopin, it’s usually on the somber side here – is laserlike. In general, it seems she prefers to understate a piece and let the music speak for itself rather than overemote. And she takes an architectural view to the development of these works, often following a subtly crescendoing arc.

The E Minor Prelude is particularly good: Guo plays it very straight-up first time through, then backs away for an increasingly unmoored sense of terror and despair. The D Minor Prelude is on the quiet side, but with plenty of feeling and a similarly impactful rhythmic freedom. Strikingly, she hits the C Minor Prelude hard at the beginning and then lets this immortal dirge quietly trail away: if there’s anything in Chopin that’s pure autobiography, this is it, or at least it seems so in Guo’s hands.

As fans of the Preludes know, many of them are miniatures, here and gone in barely the space of a couple dozen bars. Guo typically approaches the rest of them with restraint, although there are exceptions, notably in the lickety-split torrents of the F Sharp minor prelude and the long trajectory of the “Raindrop” prelude in D flat, where she seizes the moment to revisit the sheer desolation of its E minor counterpart. Clearly, she has a close emotional connection with this music.

Guo plays the Fantaisie in F minor as a suite: glittering triumph, a jaunty bit of a dance, introduced and intermingled with wariness. Interestingly, her take of the famous Barcarolle is especially vigorous and turbulent.

She closes the album with the Polish Songs: reaching for the rafters with dramatic power in Maja Pieszczotka; holding back a bit with her vocals before busting loose with Im mir klingt ein Lied and Di Piacer Me Balza Il Cor. Something happens to Guo’s playing when she sings: all of a sudden a coy playfulness appears. This may be a function of the material, but it’s quite a contrast with the poignancy and sheer seriousness of the preludes. It’s a fair bet that this is just the tip of the iceberg of Guo’s emerging talent.

A Revelatory, Riveting, Whirlwind Webcast by Pianist Karine Poghosyan

Pianist Karine Poghosyan had a banner year of concerts lined up for 2020. She was riding a wave of critical adulation for her most recent album of Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff works, and then a particularly spellbinding Carnegie Hall concert. A week before the lockdown, she played a symphony orchestra gig. All of a sudden, a career that seemed to be on a meteoric rise hit a brick wall.

In the meantime, like so many other artists, Poghosyan has gone to plan B and found a temporary home on the web. But she’s taken her webcasting to the next level. Every week since the beginning of the lockdown, she’s memorized a different program, which she plays on Friday nights for her Facebook followers (for the general public, many of these are archived on her youtube channel). And at the end of every month, she treats her Patreon supporters to a longer, more intimate and interactive performance. Last month’s was an all-Chopin program with an intensity which was visceral beyond the sonic and atmospheric limitations of a small screen.

Seated at her vintage 1925 Boston Chickering baby grand in a classically small Upper West Side Manhattan apartment, she fretted about her hair. Chopin’s Ballade No. 2 is “not very kind to hair,” Poghosyan explained to her followers. That might seem trivial, except that for Poghosyan, hair is part of the performance. Playing is a full-body experience in her world. Swaying, throwing back her black mane to the wind, then reaching forward as if to magnetize some unseen Rosetta Stone from under the piano lid, she seemed to be channeling this music more than performing it. Paradoxically, even many times removed from the actual venue, that physicality has an exponential effect on her performance.

In her hands this time, the Ballade turned out to be a song without words until it exploded in a hailstorm. How many other pianists have the nerve to take the first crescendo to such a wild peak? Afterward that, her steady arc back upward gave the audience pause to consider what had just happened.

She takes a painstaking approach to her programming. “I think of these piece as a mini-group,” she explained, introducing the Nocturne in B-flat Minor, Op. 9, no.2. Poghosyan’s dad is renowned painter Razmik Pogosyan, who, as it turns out, is a devotee of Italian opera. As a rising star of the teenage piano world in Yerevan, Armenia, she heard a lot of her father’s opera records and remains a fan. She mentioned a very cantabile quality to this piece and stuck to that through an understatedly waltzing approach with a little judicious rubato, up to a regal, stately segue into the centerpiece of the evening, the famous Fantasie-Impromptu, Op. 66.

It took an awful lot of nerve, but an equal amount of skill to play it at Art Tatum speed like she did. As breathtaking as that was to hear, she somehow found a solid elasticity to connect these volleys of notes, rather than taking a simple, rapidfire icepick approach to the big peaks. And when she backed off, the suspense was something to savor. She’s been playing it since high school, but she never gets sick of it, always finding “new characters” to evince from the notes, as she put it.

The end of the program was fascinating, She found torrential proto-Debussy in Chopin’s Prelude, Op. 28, no. 15 and closed with a towering, turbulent, exhilaratingly triumphant take of his Polonaise-Heroique, Op. 53. This was a battle, not a parade, a charismatic gunslinger who’d come to save us all from the needle of death. The force she used attacking the initial sequence of chords left no doubt that she’d come to slay. This wasn’t the troops strutting for the cameras, or Ray Manzarek slyly quoting from his fellow Pole in that classic Doors song. This was victory come hell or high water. Again, Poghosyan’s quicksilver articulacy and intuitive sense of dynamics kept this piece’s angst and aching hope from regressing into classical heavy metal.

Poghosyan’s next webcast for her Patreon people is March 28 at 4 PM with works by Gershwin, Amy Beach and Samuel Barber. You need a Zoom connection: monthly contributions can be as low as $25. That might keep her piano in tune until the next webcast.

Intimate Electricity From Joshua Bell

Isn’t it funny how some of the world’s most exciting sounds get lumped into a category with the most boring name? And who would have thought there would be such a mighty upsurge in chamber music in 2020? With established concert venues padlocked and imperiled – outside of Sweden, Moscow and Nicaragua, anyway – intimate performances largely by and for family and friends have become the new paradigm in classical music, at least until the lockdown is over.

And in keeping with the zeitgeist, some of the biggest names in the field are making intimate recordings. None other than Joshua Bell has made a diverse and often electrifying new live album, At Home with Music, streaming at Spotify. Although virtually all of it is arrangements of standard repertoire, the violinist seems especially amped to play it.

He opens with the famous first movement from Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24, jauntily trading riffs with pianist Jeremy Denk. The two play it fast: in their most animated moments, the lack of digital separation between the instruments enhances the carefree energy.

Peter Dugan takes over the piano, joining Bell for a much more rubato, Romantic take of Dvořák’s Slavonic Fantasy in B minor. Bell’s rise from silken vibrato to raw, Romany intensity is unselfconsciously electrifying, a real crowd-pleaser.

Next, he teams up with soprano Larisa Martínez and pianist Kamal Khan for a somewhat understatedly lyrical take of Mendelssohn’s “Ah, ritorna, età dell’oro” from the opera Infelice. They return to tackle a Puccini aria later on.

The rare treat here is Wieniawski’s Polonaise de Concert in D Major, Op. 4, with Dugan back on piano, both musicians digging in hard for its anthemic leaps, slashes and devious dips. Their remarkably steady, unvarnished take of Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2 makes a good segue, quiet as it generally is. And hearing Bell revel in the virtuoso ornamentation of the Jascha Heifetz arrangement of Gershwin’s Summertime is an expected thrill.

Martínez and Khan return for the closer, an alternately bracing and warmly familiar medley from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. with a triumphant coda.

Fearlessly Individualistic, Counterintuitive Classical Hits From Pianist Khatia Buniatishvili

By oldschool record label standards, releasing an album of greatest hits from the classical canon guarantees yourself a pretty wide audience. The theory is that most of the crowd who will buy it doesn’t know anything beyond the standard repertoire and can’t differentiate between interpretations. From a critical perspective, this kind of album invites disaster, a minefield of crushing comparisons to every great artist who has recorded those same pieces over the past century. How does pianist Khatia Buniatishvili‘s new album Labyrinth – streaming at Spotify – stack up against the competition? Spoiler alert: this is a very individualistic record. And that’s a very good thing.

Consider the opening number, Deborah’s Theme, from the late, great Ennio Morricone’s score to the film Once Upon a Time in America. Buniatishvili plays it with such limpidness, such tenderness, such spaciousness that plenty of listeners could call it extreme.

Then she tackles Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1: so easy to play, but so brutally challenging to figure out rhythmically. Buniatishvili gives it just enough rubato to avoid falling into the trap so many other pianists have, taking the easy way out and turning it into a maudlin waltz. This is haunting, and revelatory, and augurs well for the rest of the record.

Other pianists approach Chopin’s E Minor Prelude with a nervous, scurrying attack. Buniatishvili lets it linger in a ineffable sadness before she chooses her escape route. Again, it’s an unorthodox path to take, but once again she validates her approach. The Ligeti etude Arc-en-ciel, one of the lesser-known works here gets a similar treatment, its belltone sonics exploding just when not expected to.

Not all of the rest of the record is this dark. Her piano-four-hands take of Bach’s Badinerie, from Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067 with Gvantsa Buniatishvili is a clenched-teeth romp. Yet the Air on the G String gets reinvented as a dirge: the first instinct is to laugh, but then again the choice to play it as Procol Harum actually works. She does the same with Scarlatti later on.

Buniatishvili builds baroque counterpoint in an increasingly crushing take of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise: probably not what the composer envisioned, although there’s no arguing with the logic of her dynamic contrasts. She follows a deviously ragtimey arrangement of Serge Gainsbourg’s La Javanaise with a haphazardly pummeling and then luxuriant version of Villa-Lobos’ Valsa da Dor, which also works in context.

The pairing of French baroque composer Francois Couperin’s circling, delicately ornamented Les Barricades Mystérieuses with a Bach ripoff of a famous Vivaldi theme is an even whiter shade of pale. Fans of 20th century repertoire are rewarded with richly lingering version of Part’s stark Pari Intervallo and a hauntingly enveloping performance of Philip Glass’ I’m Going to Make a Cake (from the film The Hours).

There’s also an opulent interpretation of the well-known Brahms Intermezzo, Liszt’s nocturnal Consolation (Pensée poétique) and another Bach piece, the brooding Adagio from the Concerto in D minor, BWV 974. Oh yeah – there’s another famous thing here that clocks in at 4:33. Don’t let that lead you to believe that the album’s over yet. Stodgier classical music fans will hear this and dismiss much of it as punk rock. Let them. Their loss.

Colorful, Entertaining Reinventions of Famous Classical Themes From the Mike Fahie Jazz Orchestra

The Mike Fahie Jazz Orchestra‘s new album Urban(e) – streaming at Bandcamp – is one of the most genuinely orchestral jazz records ever made. On one level, it’s all about imaginative, outside-the-box arranging and playing. On another, it’s part of a long tradition of musicians appropriating tunes from every style imaginable: Bach writing variations on country dances; southern preachers making hymns out of old blues songs; the Electric Light Orchestra making surf rock out of a Grieg piano concerto. Here, Fahie takes a bunch of mostly-famous classical themes to places most people would never dare. It’s closer to ELO than, say, the NY Philharmonic.

Is this hubristic? Sure. Fahie addresses that issue in the album’s liner notes, assuring listeners he’s tried to be true to the intrinsic mood of each particular piece. The group’s reinvention of the third movement from Bartok’s String Quartet No. 1 – from when the composer was still more or less a Late Romantic – is a trip. Guitarist Jeff Miles gets to have fun with a few savage flares before Fahie makes chugging art-punk out of it, trombonist Daniel Linden’s blitheness offering no hint of how much further out the group are going to from there, through Vegas noir, a deliciously sinister Brad Mason trumpet solo, and more. It’s fun beyond belief.

To open the record, the group tackle Chopin’s iconic C minor prelude, beginning with a somber, massed lustre, bassist Pedro Giraudo and pianist Randy Ingram offering the first hints of revelry, Miles adding a word of caution. From there Fahie expands the harmonies many times over and the group make a latin-tinged romp out of it.

Tenor saxophonist Chet Doxas steps into the aria role in an easygoing remake of a piece from Puccini’s opera. There’s plenty of tasty suspense as Fahie’s epic suite of themes from Stravinsky’s Firebird coalesces from lush swells and glittery piano, through more carefree terrain, to a pensive yet technically daunting duet between the bandleader’s euphonium and Jennifer Wharton’s tuba.

Hearing Fahie play the opening riff from Debussy’s La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin on trombone is a revelation: that’s Pictures at an Exhibition! So much for musical appropriation, right? The rest of Fahie’s punchy, lustrous arrangement comes across as vintage, orchestral Moody Blues with brass instead of mellotron.

Fahie turns the second movement from Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony into a jaunty Swan Lake set piece, with a wistful solo from alto sax player Aaron Irwin and a more sobering one from trombonist Nick Grinder.

The group close the record with a lavish, nocturnal take of a brooding section of Bach’s Cantata, BWV 21. The theme is basically “troubles, troubles, troubles” – from Fahie’s clear-eyed opening solo, the counterpoint grows more envelopingly somber, up to some neat rhythmic inventions and a return back. This inspired cast also includes saxophonists Anton Denner, Quinsin Nachoff and Carl Maraghi; trumpeters Brian Pareschi, David Smith and Sam Hoyt; tombonist Matthew McDonald and drummer Jeff Davis.

Melody Fader Channels the Deepest Side of Chopin and More in Manhattan and Brooklyn

Pianist Melody Fader’s favorite composer is Chopin. And it shows. The audience at her intimate, solo Soho Silk Series show last month gave her a standing ovation that went on and on, after she’d ended the program with a characteristically intuitive take of the composer’s famous Fantasie-Impromptu op. 66. Maybe that’s because she didn’t play it as if it was the Minute Waltz, as certain hotshot players tend to do.

Instead, revealingly, she took her time, letting the gritty Romany chromatics of those daunting cascades gleam, rather than just leaving momentary flickers behind in a race to the finish line. That was just one of the concert’s innumerable gorgeous details. On one hand, that’s to be expected on a program of music by a classical icon or two; still, Fader seems especially dedicated to finding those delicious bits and spotlighting them. She’s a pioneer of the house concert circuit (not to be confused with the evil and intrusive Groupmuse); her next Soho loft show is Feb 25 in a duo set with Momenta Quartet violinist Emilie-Anne Gendron playing  music of Ravel, Brahms and Schumann. You can rsvp for location and deets; for the Brooklyn posse, they’re repeating the program (from their forthcoming album) the following night, Feb 26 at 7 PM at Spectrum for a modest $15 cover.

The rest of the January bill was just as much of a revelation. It’s impossible to remember anyone playing more emotionally attuned versions of the E Minor and B Minor preludes. They’re standard repertoire, they don’t require virtuoso technique, but what a difference Fader’s subtle rubato and resoluteness in the face of sheer devastation meant to the former. Same with her crisp but muted arpeggios, bringing out all the longing in the latter. The dynamics in the rest of the first eight of Chopin’s preludes were just as vivid, from the warm cantabile she brought to the C major prelude, to the catacomb phantasmagoria of the one in A minor and a welcome suspense in A major later on.

From there, there seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of depth, and gravitas, but also in many places unselfconscious joy. Fader averred that as a kid, she didn’t like Bach: she found his music mechanical. These days, she’s done a 180, validating that with a dazzling, harpsichord-like precision but also fierce ornamentation throughout a rousing take of his French Suite in E, no. 6.

Kaija Saariaho is also a big Bach fan, so following with her Ballade was a great segue, even if the rhythms tended toward the tango Fader had found lurking inside the early part. The stygian boogie and jaunty cascades afterward were just as intense.

The wary, muted melancholy as she launched into the Chopin Ballade no. 2 in F major was a feature that sometimes gets lost in more ostentatious hands. By contrast, she pulled out an almost grand guignol attack for the Andante Spianato op. 22, yet pulled back with a guardedly hopeful understatement afterward. Amd the glittery tumbles of the Etude op. 25 no. 1 got the same kind of articulacy she’d given the Bach. By the time this was all over, pretty much everybody was out of breath.

An Elegantly Insightful, Unselfconsciously Vivid Performance by Pianist Melody Fader and Cellist Elinor Frey in Soho

“I don’t do intermissions,” Melody Fader grinned, almost breathlessly. She’d just played two Beethoven sonatas and a ravishing, opulent Chopin work, pretty much nonstop. During the reception after the latest performance at her intimate Soho Silk Series earlier this month, she explained that once she gets on a roll, she doesn’t like to quit. Maybe that’s because she and cellist Elinor Frey were obviously having so much fun, in an insightful, meticulously dynamic performance of Beethoven’s two Op. 5 cello sonatas as well as Fader’s literally transcendent performance of Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 27, no. 2 in D flat.

“These are really piano sonatas,” Fader laughed, introducing Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 1 in F Major. She and Frey bantered about the innovations Beethoven had introduced to a format that until after the baroque period had often been a springboard for improvisation. But as much as both pieces come across as works for piano with cello accompaniment rather than the other way around, there’s plenty of room for convivial interplay, and the duo’s sympatico performance more than validated that.

As Sonata No 1 gathered momentum, Fader parsed the work judiciously, with a muted staccato in the lefthand early on. As the two built to an effervescent romp, she gave the ornamentation considerable dignity, elegant flourishes not simply tossed off as grace notes. From there the two joined in a vivacious pulse that grew more acerbic as the allegro second movement and its bracing shift to minor kicked in.

Frey’s ambered lines as Cello Sonata No. 2 got underway underscored the first movement’s bittersweet cantabile sensibility. Fader’s vigorous, stilletto insistence and balletesque clusters followed in contrast up to a real hailstorm of a coda, with unwavering precision and power as Frey held the center.

But the real piece de resistance on the bill was the Chopin. Other pianists go for starry ripple, but Fader took her time, bringing out all the longing and angst in the opening movement, setting the scene for a big payoff when the starlight really started beaming down and the famous hook from all the excerpts you hear in movies first appears:, ironically where other pianists often pull back. Fader parsed the melodies with rubato to spotlight ideas and transitions instead of going for drama. Imbuing the finale with lingering tenderness, Fader left no doubt that this is a love song. Which made even more sense considering that Fader had dedicated it to her girlfriend, Laura Segal, a woman with a wry sense of humor and unselfconscious joie de vivre.

Fader’s next performance in the southern part of Manhattan is Nov 13 at 8 PM at Greenwich House Music School, where she’ll be joined by violinist Sophie Ackermann and cellist Nicolas Deletaille,, playing works by Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Dalit Warshaw. Cover is $20/$15 stud/srs. and there’s a reception afterward.