Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?  
Keyword Search
 in   
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews



 
See latest reviews of other albums...

Blair Sanderson
AllMusic.com, November 2007

Beata Moon's first recording for Naxos presents a handful of premieres, though roughly half of this disc features fresh performances of pieces that appeared on two previous albums. The Piano Sonata and Inter-Mez-Zo, both composed in 2006, are important additions to Moon's growing list of piano works, several of which appeared in 2000 on her debut on Albany, Perigee and Apogee, and in 2004 on her CD for BiBimBop, Earthshine. This is, however, her first all-piano collection, which she recorded February 16-17, 2007, and her performances are consistent in energy and color, even though the music goes through many changes of character. Whether it's the weighty pronouncements of the Sonata, the veiled mystery of Submerged, the perkiness of In Transit, or the virtuosic runs of the Toccata, Moon's writing and playing reveal both playfulness and an acute awareness of what works; she slips easily between styles without being obviously eclectic, and her music holds together through sureness of technique. Her language is primarily tonal, blended with impressionistic harmonies and occasionally spiced with sharper dissonances; Moon's forms are usually short, poetic vignettes where ideas are freely associated, rather than rigorously developed along theoretical lines. To this extent, Moon is at her best in miniatures, and her music seems ideally suited to expressing images and moods instead of abstractions. Naxos' reproduction is clean and crisp, and the fairly close microphone placement gives Moon a credible presence.



Andrew Druckenbrod
Gramophone, November 2007

Half a century ago, the piano music of Beata Moon would have been dismissed as too conventional. Now it can simply be enjoyed. The Korean- American composer, born in North Dakoa and successful first as a piano prodigy, writes primarily tonally and in traditional forms - an ode, a sonata' a fantasy, and so on. While formal and rhythmic complexities swirl undemeath, they never obscures shimmering and expressives surfaces meant to be readily understood by audiences. If no no new ground is broken here, there are no long-winded essays, either (in fact, no movement is more than six minutes).

Case in point is the delicate lullaby-like Prelude, whose flowing tenderness belies an irregular 13/16 signature. Likewise, Guernica decries the violence of the Iraq War, yet never spits venom of the audience-barring sort many composers seem compelled to in such a work. Perhaps her aesthetic is best described by the second movement of her Piano Sonata: "Easygoing." Moon, the pianist throughout, certainly performs that way, no matter how difficult and dramatic passages.

What is most startling is the pervading confidence. Most composers spin their efforts in the tonal sphere ironically or self-consciously. Moon writes compelling music that is utterly sincere. Even a programmatic work such as In Transit simply and wittily captures life in New York City as cabs and subways as she experienced it. No hip or academic filter needed.

It's tempting to view her uncanny inner security as a product of coming late to composing. Moon made her debut with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at the age of eight and played many concerts before earning a bachelor's degree at Juilliard, but soon after "took a break from playing to reflect on what music meant to her personally". Composing was her answe. But she likely had this music and confidence intrinsically in her from the start. In any case, with the light-hearted Inter-Mez-zo (each syllable inspiring a movement), engaging Piano Fantasy, energetic Toccata and splendid Nursery, this disc is exhibit A in the continuing court-of-public-opinion case on the accessibility of quality new music.



Sequenza21.com, September 2007

Composer/pianist Beata Moon performs a program of her own compositions on this new Naxos release. Performing your own compositions entails risks on both sides of the “/”. When composing for your instrument you will be tempted to equate your limits as a player with the limits of the instrument—to write what you can play. If you are playing your own music the temptation may be to play what you meant whether you wrote it or not.

I haven’t seen Beata Moon’s piano music in print, so I can’t comment on the accuracy of her readings of her own compositions, but it is hard for me to escape the idea that her comfort zone as a player has a great deal of influence on her music. The music, all of it well-crafted and pianistic, stays within a relatively small expressive and technical range.

Within that range, it can be very good indeed. The Sonata is a solid work, a 17-minute statement of the composer’s view of the instrument. The harmony is unabashedly tonal, the melodies capable of carrying the expressive weight and structural duty they’re given. There’s a lot of monorhythmic writing in this piece (and in most of the others on the disc), and to my ears it keeps the music from going to places it seems to want/need to go.

Ms. Moon is a fine player, her technique is clean and her musicality fits the music she is playing.



Patrick C Waller
MusicWeb International, August 2007

Born in North Dakota of Korean origins, Beata Moon is largely self-taught as a composer. Her pluralistic style is not easy to pigeonhole but the idiom is attractive. Within concise forms she uses plenty of material and composes for her instrument imaginatively. She also plays with great flair but I searched in vain for much emotional content in the music or evidence of her Eastern roots.

The Piano Sonata is the most substantial work here. It is in four movements, an opening sustained chorale, lively quasi-scherzo, simplistic slow movement and robust finale. New York City-inspired In Transit and Inter-Mez-Zo are also multi-movement works both of which are overtly programmatic. The journeys are short but these works often seemed to me to be more imaginative than the sonata. Inter-Mez-Zo catches the ear with Moon’s overtly exuberant playing in the outer movements and a delightful middle section marked “mellow; lazily”.

Of the single span works, Submerged is perhaps the most impressive and impressionistic, Guernica the most dissonant. Whilst Toccata focuses on rhythm, Ode is notable for tonal colouring and was composed in homage to Debussy. It seems slightly odd to end the disc with Moon’s first composition for piano – Prelude, a work notable for use of 13/16 time.

Beata Moon’s pianism is well-tested by her music and she passes with flying colours playing a Fazioli piano. The recorded sound is quite close but very clean. Relatively brief but pertinent notes by composer Frank J. Oteri are included. I liked the cover image – what Lowry might have done if he had been born in America perhaps?

All this music has been composed in the last decade or so and we are not overburdened with discs of contemporary piano works. This is likeable music that spends more time looking over the shoulder than forwards but I would suspect that the best of Moon is yet to come.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2007

Of Korean extraction, Beata Moon was born in the United States, her gifts as a pianist taking her on to the concert stage at the age of eight. Subsequently a student at Juilliard, she embarked on a major career in 1990, but then stood back to view the direction her life was leading. It was to mark the beginning of her output as a largely self-taught composer and teacher. Her output for piano came full circle in taking her back into the concert hall, while at the same time moving into a mass media environment to promote new music. She has worked on many major commissions, most of her work being for solo instruments and small ensembles. The present disc covers her piano scores over the period 1996 to 2006, her most extended and ambitious work to date being the Piano Sonata completed last year. In the conventional four movements of contrasting tempos, and though there is moments that spell out the 21st century, you have the feeling that she is happy in the comfort-zone of tonality. Maybe it will never be regarded as a ground-breaking score, but there is much to enjoy, particularly in the brilliance of the finale. In Transit is enormous fun as Moon pictures five scenes from the jazzy opening Hubbub through to the more relaxed Sub (conscious) Way. Her dislike for the conflict in Iraq comes in Guernica, the hyperactivity of such troubled times stated in jagged rhythms coming to a peaceful conclusion. The mischievous element returns in Inter-Mez-Zo, the three movements ending with a busy perpetuum mobile. The remaining works are all short, mostly musical pictures, my favourite being the Ode composed in homage to Debussy, and very much as a modern version of the composer. The disc ends with Prelude composed in 1996 and Moon's first piano piece, the lush textures bringing a final repose. Moon is obviously a fine pianist, while the New York recording made earlier this year is outstanding.



Carla Rees
MusicWeb International, July 2007

Beata Moon is a Korean-American pianist and composer. She trained as a pianist at the Juilliard School and is known for her specialism in new music. As a composer, she is self-taught, and her compositional style encompasses a range of genres, from the classical tradition to film and popular music.

The CD begins with the charming Piano Sonata, a substantial four movement work lasting around 17 minutes. Each movement takes on its own character, with a bold and majestic first, and an energetically rhythmic second. The third movement is simple and calm, using mostly four part chords, and the piece draws to a close with the exciting finale, which is more ‘filmy’ in style with its grand sweeping gestures and at times more adventurous harmony. The ending is perhaps a little abrupt; there is room for further development in a work of this substance.

In Transit, composed in 1999, is reminiscent of Bernstein and Shostakovich, and one can’t help but be reminded of Stravinsky in some of the thumping bass lines - such as in the movement, Chug-A, track 7. The piece has drive and the more jazzy moments have poise and sophistication. The piece is made up of five movements, each of which lasts under a minute and a half. On the CD, they flow seamlessly from one to another, leaving the impression of a single continuous movement.

The aggressive opening to Guernica (track 11) is very different from the other works on the disc. The harmony is more dissonant and here we can hear the full flair of the performer. Unfortunately the gutsiness dissipates and the style of the music returns to what we have, by now, become accustomed to.

Mention should also made of the Piano Fantasy, which was possibly conceived as a tribute to the various famous fantasy pieces in the piano’s repertoire. Moon’s flawless technique allows for fluidity and evenness and the treble and bass become, at times, different characters within the work.

In general, I enjoyed listening to this CD. I particularly enjoyed the more dissonant moments, perhaps partially because they provided variety and partially because I was at times willing Ms Moon to let rip a little more. The piano playing is excellent and the sound quality of the recording is impressive. I was particularly attracted by the clarity of the recording. However, for me, a whole disc of this music was too much. A little more variety was needed to maintain my interest. The majority of works here are short, and are ideal as recital pieces as they would complement both traditional and contemporary works.





Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group