E Pluribus Unum
Piano Works by Anna Clyne, Lera Auerbach, Kamran Ince, Chaya Czernowin, Reinaldo Moya, Eun Young Lee, Pablo Ortiz and Gabriela Lena Frank
Liza Stepanova (piano)
Navona Records NV 6300 58:30 mins
E Pluribus Unum (‘Out of many, one’; an early American motto) brings together a collection of solo piano works themed around recent US immigration policies and rhetoric. Although pianist Liza Stepanova chooses 2017 as her datum point, the thorny issues remain unresolved – not only in the US but also in the UK. It is appropriate, then, to include British-American composer Anna Clyne’s On Track, which features a recording of Queen Elizabeth II’s famous Commonwealth speech, splicing the line ‘I have lived long enough to know that things never remain quite the same for very long’ within a tape part that runs alongside scurrying piano phrases.
The album’s centrepiece is Táhirih The Pure by Stepanova’s student Badie Khaleghain, whose Iranian parents were not permitted to travel to attend their son’s graduation recital at the University of Georgia. The first movement hints at Middle Eastern soundworlds, while the second is sparsely melodic and evocative of Morton Feldman. The final movement portrays its eponymous heroine in quiet meditation shortly before her assassination. This work, along with Mool by Eun Young Lee and Chaya Czernowin’s fardanceCLOSE are premiere recordings.
Stepanova was born in Belarus and is now a US citizen, having lived in Germany for ten years. Her personal experience of immigration inform her thoughtful and sensitive accounts of highly varied and complex scores. At times the piano appears to be poorly miked (such as in Ortiz’s Piglia, with its emphasis on the resonant middle range) but this does not mar the overall enjoyment of an intelligently-curated recital.