26 Jul 2017

CD Review: Sarajevo – Jian Liu

From Upbeat, 1:40 pm on 26 July 2017

Sarajevo, a new release by Wellington pianist Jian Liu features a collection of New Zealand piano works from some of the country’s most eminent composers. The album features two contrasting works by Jack Body, the title track Sarajevo and On the Street Where I live, Gareth Farr’s The Horizon from Owhiro Bay, and works from Ross Harris and Anthony Ritchie. But are these works cohesive and complementary? Peter Mechen takes a listen to the artistry of Jian Liu.

Jian Liu

Jian Liu Photo: Supplied

Sarajevo - a collection of New Zealand piano works
Jian Liu (piano)

Atoll Records ACD 217

Music by Jack Body, Ross Harris, Jenny McLeod, John Psathas, Anthony Ritchie and Gareth Farr

The appearance of an Atoll Records CD featuring a recital of New Zealand piano music containing works by half-a-dozen well-known local composers is an event worth any music-lover's attention. Of added interest is that the pianist is Jian Liu, Head of Piano Studies at the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University, and one of the finest musicians currently living and working in this country. So, is this new collection a random dip into the current state of home-grown composition for piano, or is there more to it than that? The accompanying booklet notes draw attention to a "theme of remembrance" which characterises most of the pieces, ranging from the disturbing (the CD's title music, Jack Body's Sarajevo), through the thoughtful and elusive (Anthony Ritchie's Touched) to the nostalgic (Ross Harris's Music for Barry Williams), and whimsical (Jack Body's On the Street Where I Live), with variants of the same from the pieces in between. Each of those pieces highlights the skill of the performer, Jian Liu, in penetrating and identifying with the uniqueness of mood and essential character of these very different scenarios. In this respect every piece is given its own kind of distinction in Jian Liu's hands, and Atoll's clear-as-a-bell recording does the rest.

Review by Peter Mechen