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West Of The Sun: Music Of The Americas
Selections by Ernesto Nazareth, Louis Moreau Gottshalk, Astor Piazzola, Alberto Ginastera, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Amy Marcy Beach, Margaret Bonds, William Bolcom and Samuel Barber
Joel Fan, piano
Review By Evan Shinners

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  The following journal entry was given to me, Aretha Bridewater, a nurse at Glenn Sutton Hospital, Quebec City, Canada, from a man named Evan Shinners, who kept shouting "Classical music is supposed to be dead white guys!" upon his check-in to the hospital. He was pale in color and had fallen off his bead upon reviewing an apparently disturbing recording. The entry was written by him shortly after he regained his health:

I had a dream that 41-year-old pianist Joel Fan released a new recording of piano music entitled "West of the Sun." In this dream the CD included both well-known and lesser known works, not too strange and not too much like a nightmare, but then, right there on the cover were the words, "Music of the Americas." Music from North and South America! And the music was mostly Twentieth-century, excep a composition by a woman, Amy Beach, and aother by an American, Gottschalk. A Nightmare! What was I supposed to do with all this music? What was the piano world supposed to think of all this music which was not European and not Chopin? In my dream I frantically searched my desk drawers and pulled out all the concert programs from my college years -- and realized it’s been five years since I went to a piano recital without hearing Chopin’s Third Ballade or the Schumann Fantasy. Yet here was this "West of the Sun" recording glaring implacably at me like the Monolith in that Kubrick film. Did this recording actually mean that there is music out there that is not part of the standard repertoire? I must have tossed in my sheets as I put on the record and the opening track was some composer named, Ernest Nazareth, who apparently had written more than 200 works for piano!

The dream kept getting worse, especially as Amy Beach, ("A Girl!," I thought), played over my speakers, revealing a charming piece as crafty as Chopin and as lyrical as Field… it could not be that a woman could have written such a piece -- especially an American! Then I heard nine pieces called "Bagatelles," a genre reserved for Beethoven and once in a while Bartok, if I were feeling adventurous enough, but then, at the worse part of the dream, I realized these Bagatelles were written in 2006! That is precisely 150 years after Schumann died, which I’m pretty sure marked the death of all music. This was a nightmare. Mr. Fan was seeping into my brain like knowledge I was afraid of, and it only grew worse. Not only did I have 150 years of Non-European music to catch up on, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps music in Europe didn’t stop after Schumann, and I thought about Liszt and was correct… if Liszt lived after Schumann, then perhaps someone lived after Liszt, like Gottschalk! ...and so on and so forth, and I realized, in a cold sweat, that music maybe wasn’t a small explosion over one hundred years within three countries in Europe.

At that thought, I awoke in a daze, sweating, heart racing and my sheets all scattered on the floor. "Just a dream... just a dream..." And then, right where I had dreamed it, the CD was real, and on Reference Recordings, and there was a picture of Joel Fan smiling on the cover, as if to say, "IT'S ALIVE!" I shrieked and quickly glanced at the liner notes written by him, and found that he plays with Yo-Yo Ma, another musician who now branches off from playing exclusively the Dvorak Cello Concerto! "Traitors!" I cried as I thought of the two of them, Ma and Fan, indulging in music not fit for our concert halls reserved for delicate Mozart and pretty Haydn. "Well at least all that music is dead and no more is coming"; I repeated this like a mantra as my blood cooled and I tried to fall back asleep.

The last thing I saw before I awoke from shock in the hospital were the dates of the composer William Bolcom printed on the CD… (1938- Present) "He's ALIVE!!!"

 

 

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