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Distant Voices: Piano Music by Claude Debussy & Gao Ping (Deluxe Version)

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How to hear the Chinese influence in Debussy’s music: Listen to Frederic Chiu

Part 1 - The most musical and surprising recording of Debussy’s Eastern-influenced works

Frederic Chiu is uniquely qualified to reveal to us the music Debussy composed while under the spell of the Orient. A Chinese American who lived in Paris for over a decade, and who is an ardent promoter of Chinese composers, Chiu has the cultural, experiential and musical makeup to interpret these works like no one else.

There are so many NEW moments listening to this Debussy. Even if you are a piano geek, or a great artist who knows these works inside out, you can’t help but catch your breath every minute or so as you hear things so imbued with the nuance, the folk-feeling, the grandeur of the Chinese musical world transmitted through Debussy’s imagination. Especially worthy of note is Chiu’s layering of three or four voices all in different rhythms: inner voices moving in triplet while others in duple, while the melody moves freely above. We could get out our scores and go measure by measure raving over these things, but do it at home.

Two other important things to mention, the piano sound and the pianists pedaling technique.

The piano sound in this recording is uber Yamaha. The sound of each note evenly colored when played at the same volume… a bright sound, but thankfully not brash and harsh as sometimes happens to instruments overused or not cared for. This sound is particularly evocative for pentatonic music, and the “string of pearls” style of playing. The mixing is risky, very close. You are sitting right next to the piano. So there is absolutely no way to hide anything in the pedal. This occasionally reveals some slight uneven playing… which gives the album a brave, honest, live-like feeling… something we miss in the overproduced world we live in. But the other thing the close mixing brings us is the very subtle and astounding pedaling effects Chiu brings.

So... the pedaling. If you aren’t familiar with Frederic’s playing this is the perfect album to start with. He is a pioneer of constant use of all three pedals on the grand piano. How does he do it with only two feet? And what is the result of this truly unique pedaling? Without getting technical, it means totally new combinations of the notes ringing together. Literally. On this recording there are Debussy’s notes ringing together bringing new harmonic and layering interpretations that have just never been done, and cannot be done any other way. And they are compelling.


Genre: Classical

American pianist Frederic Chiu was born to a Chinese immigrant family. Critics count his diverse background as one of his strengths, permitting him a wider point of view in studying the music he plays. On the other hand, his concert repertory is as centered on the classical European piano literature as that of any comparable player. Another part of his background gives him unusual insight into collaboration: his brother is a violinist, and as the pair was growing up Frederic often accompanied him....
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Top Albums and Songs by Frederic Chiu

Distant Voices: Piano Music by Claude Debussy & Gao Ping (Deluxe Version), Frederic Chiu
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