The young Taiwanese pianist Han Chen enters a pianistic lion’s den with this first complete traversal on disc of music for solo piano by Thomas Adès. Arrived at via Liszt opera transcriptions and sonatas by Rubinstein – suitably mercurial antecedents – it’s no slight undertaking. But where youthful exuberance and ardour benefitted those earlier recordings (also on Naxos), here it detracts as much as it adds. The opening Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Faceis dispatched with all the kinetic verve Chen brought to Liszt and the bravura confidence of his Rubinstein recital. But set against Kirill Gerstein’s more pointed and poetic account, newly released on Myrios, its attention to surface energy and detail begins to seem rather fleeting and superficial even allowing for its pointillistic piquancy.

Chen is at his best where Adès is at his most introspective: the John Dowland-inspired Still Sorrowing– a sequence of dark refrains infused with troubling undercurrents – and Darkness Visible, atomised into stark dynamic extremes and haunting tremolando effects. Album closer Souvenir is delivered with a spare, hushed Debussyian quality that...

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.