CD Review: Sound visionaries (Navona Records)

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Sound visionaries
Works by Debussy, Messiaen, Boulez 

Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano

Navona Records NV6358

★★★★

The Toronto pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico has built her career on the twin pillars of contemporary and Canadian repertoire. Here she goes international with incisive results. The angular and structural properties of  Debussy’s Book 2 Préludes (we hear a selection of eight) are given full value. Seven of Messiaen’s Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus are brilliantly lit for all to see. The solemn chorale and treble cascades of Première communion de la vierge are sharply contrasted. Who would have thought that a “regard” of baby Jesus by the prophets, shepherds and Magi would be so explosive? 

Petrowska Quilico’s assertive style proves valuable also in Boulez’s First (1946) and Third (1958) Sonatas. “This is music that resonates with an incandescent cold, like the Canadian Arctic under a blinding sun, shimmering with clarity of purpose,” the pianist remarks, perceptively, in her own notes, about the 10-minute First Sonata. One way of approaching these quirky and mercilessly atonal essays is to hear them as improvisations. Much indeed is left to the performer in the eight-minute Third Sonata. Whether taken one burst of sound at a time or heard from a higher structural perspective, the performances – taken, like the others, from archival CBC broadcasts – come across as authoritative.

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About Author

Arthur Kaptainis has been a classical music critic since 1986. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Musical Toronto. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto. Since 2019, Arthur is co-editor of La Scena Musicale.

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