American Record Guide, November/December 2007
by Jack Sullivan
This enterprising program of new piano works is a mélange indeed, including Andrian Pertrout’s expressive ‘Song of Augmentation’, based on augmented chords and Golden Mean proportions; John Blair’s ‘Parallax’, improvised at the piano in a recital, then transcribed by popular demand; Edward Knight’s cool, abstract Prelude and Toccata, written when he was 20; Pui-shan Cheung’s ‘Lotus Pond’, a musical manifestation of Zen; Paul Dickenson’s stinging, virtuosic Suite of Piano, which concludes with a diabolical fugue; Daniel Adam’s ‘Between Stillness and Motion’, a study in extreme contrasts written in 2004 for the pianist here, Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi; Craig Weston’s sensuous ‘Into All Crevices of My World’, evoking a William Carlos Williams poem; and Arthur Gottschalk’s 12-tone but weirdly charming ‘Fakebook 1’-riffs on Erroll Garner, Thelonius Monk and George Shearing. The loveliest music is John C. Ross’s simple, lyrical Prelude and Caprice, full of fluid rhythm and seductive harmony. The program cleverly concludes with Phillip Schroeder’s ‘Wrap It Up’, a mischievous “ender” written for Astolfi. (Schroeder also produced and engineered the excellent recording). The notes don’t mention it, but the Adams and Weston pieces have quavery, surreal sounds that are surely electronic.
Unlike many contemporary piano music programs that perpetrate dreary, interchangeable specimens of academicism expressionism, this one is adventurous and varied. The Canadian pianist Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi plays with wit and panache, her readings greatly enhanced by the gorgeous sound (especially in the Pertout and Ross pieces) of a Bösendorfer recorded at Henderson State University in Arkansas, obviously a superior venue. This is one of Capstone’s best modern piano releases.
Solo Piano Publications, December 2006
by Kathy Parsons
“Mélange: New Music for Piano” is the first in the Performers Recording Series, an innovative series initiated by The Society of Composers, Inc. (a national organization for the promotion and dissemination of new art music). What makes this series different from other compilations is that it is performer-based. Each CD focuses on a specific performer, and SCI members submit works for recording consideration. Works are selected, performed, and recorded by the performer or ensemble featured on the CD, in this case, pianist Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi. To say that Astolfi is a versatile artist or that she has impeccable technique is to understate the obvious. Her playing is crystalline and clean, passionate when the music calls for it, and clinical when an absence of emotion is required. In addition to performing, Astolfi is a lecturer on piano literature, an adjudicator, a consultant and editor of new piano teaching materials, chairperson for the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association composition competitions, a coach, and private teacher. She teaches piano and music theory at Henderson State University in Arkansas. Phillip Schroeder, also on the music faculty at Henderson, acted as producer and recording engineer on the album, and his piece closes the CD.
The music included on “Mélange” is definitely not for the casual listener. Most of the music was composed by music academics from around the world, and is challenging on several levels. Astolfi’s incredible performance will be a revelation to anyone who loves and appreciates piano music, and if you have an ear for new music of an intellectual nature, this is a must-have CD. The ten composers whose works are featured are Andrian Pertout, John Blair, Edward Knight, Pui-shan Cheung, Paul Dickinson, John C. Ross, Daniel Adams, Craig Weston, Arthur Gottschalk, and Phillip Schroeder.
I especially like John C. Ross’ “Prelude” and “Caprice,” both of which are flowing and elegant even though the hands are in two different meters in the “Prelude” and there is no meter in the “Caprice.” Sometimes melodic and sometimes totally without melody, I really like the feel and flow of these two pieces. Arthur Gottschalk’s very enjoyable “Fakebook I” is a set of three movements that pay tribute to Erroll Garner, Thelonius Monk, and George Shearing respectively, and elaborate on a tune associated with each of them: “Misty,” “’Round Midnight,” and “Lullaby of Birdland.” These are not arrangements of these pieces by any means, but an occasional theme can be heard woven into the original compositions. Phillip Schroeder’s “Wrap It Up” was composed for Astolfi as a work to end a program, an etude, and something lighthearted and fun to play. (I thoroughly enjoyed Schroeder’s “Music for Piano,” which was also performed by Astolfi.) This is a delightful ending to a complex and thought-provoking CD.