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George F. Litterst

Distant Voices, Recorded on the Yamaha DCFX, Is the Inaugural Classical Release of the Yamaha Entertainment Group

Frederic Chiu-smallPianist Frederic Chiu is an acclaimed artist who has pushed boundaries in the world of classical music - from performance protocols and recording, to teaching and technology. He is in the spotlight yet again with a new “first”: a recording that combines state-of-the-art audio and video technology, masterpieces of the Western classical music canon, and contemporary works rooted in the East. This is the inaugural classical music release from Yamaha Entertainment Group of America.

(This article is provided by Jennifer Wada Communications Co. and Yamaha Music Entertainment Group of America.)

This aural and visual experience, utilizing Yamaha Disklavier Technology, offering artistic insight and a stunning performance, marks Frederic Chiu’s 26th year as a Yamaha artist. The program is a revelatory mix of iconic Debussy and music of the Szechuan-born, French- and Russian-influenced Gao Ping. The album also marks Chiu’s first Debussy recording. Click here to watch the traileratch the trailer.

Distant Voices, Piano Music by Claude Debussy & Gao Ping includes both an audio CD and video DVD of the longtime Yamaha artist performing a unique combination of iconic favorites and groundbreaking newer music from the piano repertoire, along with commentary from Chiu about his background and music-making.

Frederic ChiuFrederic Chiu’s first recording of Debussy features 10 selections by the composer (the six pieces of Images, Books I & II; two selections from Estampes; “Clair de Lune” from Suite Bergamasque, and Rêverie) that are among the most beloved in the piano repertoire, interspersed with six pieces by the 45-year-old Szechuan-born pianist/composer Gao Ping, that collectively reveals musical globalization occurring at both ends of the 20th century – Debussy’s horizons stretching beyond Europe, and Gao’s music, while firmly in the Western tradition, grounded in his Chinese background. And three of Gao’s pieces introduce a new genre: music for vocalizing pianist, as demonstrated in bravura fashion in Chiu's performance of "Katyusha, Homage to D. Shostakovich," that manages in the space of two minutes to combine virtuosic piano writing, a madcap riff on “Tea for Two” (and Shostakovich’s arrangement of that song) and singing, whistles, and yells. (Complete program listing is below.)

“The opportunity to create Yamaha’s first classical piano album, exploiting the possibilities of Yamaha’s new CFX concert grand and the latest in Disklavier technology, immediately brought Debussy to my mind,” says Chiu, who has been a Yamaha artist since 1988. “Debussy explored the unique qualities of the piano like no composer before him, and few since. His music is a test for the artist and the instrument both. The DCFX – a CFX Disklavier – passed with flying colors – this is a true revolution for the recording studio.”

The exceptional performance was captured on the Yamaha Disklavier, a true acoustic piano that incorporates fiber-optic sensing systems and state-of-the-art technology to record and reproduce every note of Frederic Chiu’s Distant Voices, Piano Music by Claude Debussy and Gao Ping with unparalleled precision. Disklavier technology made it possible to not only create the film in a mere three days, but also to produce a special Disklavier program that will enable those with a Disklavier piano to replicate the performance on their own instruments.

“It is an honor to not only debut our label’s first classical album with such an acclaimed and inspirational artist as Chiu, who is always willing to push boundaries, but to also be able to capture his every nuance for our Disklavier subscribers,” says Chris Gero, founder and vice president of Yamaha Entertainment Group. “With Yamaha’s Disklavier technology, Chiu’s intention, his velocity - it is all captured and played back exactly as he originally played it. In essence we are sharing a piece of history for the world to hear and see.”

Launch Concert at Los Angeles County Museum of Art on September 20
Frederic Chiu will perform the program of works on the recording at a special CD launch concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Sunday, September 20, 2015, at 6:00 pm. Admission to the concert, in the museum’s Bing Theater, is free.

Distant Voices Is the DisklavierTV™ Featured Performance for September 2015
The Distant Voices program will be made available for the month of September to all subscribers of DisklavierTV, a service available to Disklavier owners that provides access to a variety of streaming performances combining perfectly synchronized video, audio, and the data that actually plays the Disklavier piano. Viewers can enjoy the program at any time of the day or night, and watch it as often as they like during the month.

Gao Ping and Debussy 
According to Chiu, “the music of Gao Ping, one of the most prominent of the ‘sixth generation’ Chinese composers in the Western tradition [following the ‘fifth generation’ composers such as Tan Dun], clearly displays his admiration for the music of the Golden Era of the piano, with Debussy at the heart of that era. At the same time, his roots in Szechuan Province are forever present. The three pieces of Distant Voices draw material directly from his Chinese background, but his abstract treatment creates what could be considered a true successor to Debussy, an Images III” – hence the placement of Distant Voices in between the two books of Debussy’s Images on the recording. “Both composers,” Chiu says, “base their art on profound, focused listening.”

About the vocalizing, which was inspired by Glenn Gould’s enthusiastic vocalizations that can easily be heard on his recordings, Chiu says, “When listening to Concealed Voices, or the Two Soviet Love Songs, the virgin listener may at first wonder who in the audience is being so rude as to sing along with the pianist, but soon the intricately balanced interactions between vocalization and pianotization make it clear that it is none other than the pianist himself. Novelty quickly fades into naturalness, as the interplay between piano and pianist grows.”

Frederic Chiu 
With a vibrant concert schedule, a legacy of 25 CDs, and a stream of superlatives from major critics around the globe, pianist Frederic Chiu occupies a special place in the world of classical music. In an eclectic career encompassing unusual collaborations and little-played repertoire, along with explorations into the psychology of performance, Mr. Chiu has demonstrated an ability to go beyond boundaries. Not coincidentally, this long-term Yamaha Artist also helped the instrument establish its brand as one the world’s great piano makers by providing important feedback to technicians as they developed the newest models.

The accolades tell part of the story. Reviewers have called his recorded performances “playing on an exalted level” (Fanfare), and “stunningly virtuosic... [with a] sense of spontaneity [that] is often incandescent” (BBC Music Magazine). The New Yorker included his version of Liszt’s Années de Pélérinage, Italie among their “Best Classical Albums of 2001.” His Mendelssohn Sonatas—selected as “Record of the Year” by Stereo Review—became a best-seller in the classical piano category.

Other recent releases include Liszt’s arrangement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Saint-Saën’s Carnival of the Animals (with storyteller David Gonzalez), and Hymns and Dervishes—music by Gurdjieff and de Hartmann (out on Centaur later in 2015), another release that demonstrates the pianist’s ongoing adventurousness.

Mr. Chiu’s interest in the mystic George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was sparked by philosophical pursuits, encouraged by a book written by Gurdjieff student Thomas de Hartmann about his life with his teacher. “I read it,” he reports Mr. Chiu, “realized he was also a composer, and found a bunch of scores in the Library of Congress.” Gurdjieff’s music had been notated and arranged by Thomas de Hartmann, a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory when Prokofiev was also there. In an effort to do justice to the music, Mr. Chiu began studying Middle Eastern scales. “I consulted Julian Weiss, who started a Middle Eastern musical ensemble called Al Kindi, and he gave me a lot of insights.” The result is a recording that uses both standard “equal temperament,” and alternate tunings, which give the music “a sense of inspiration and expiration. We had a technician retune the piano before each piece,” he explains. Recreating the effect in live performance is accomplished using a Yamaha keyboard that allows for changes of intonation on individual pitches. Read more at www.fredericchiu.com and Frederic Chiu's Yamaha Entertainment Group page.

Yamaha Entertainment Group of America 
Yamaha Entertainment Group of America is a boutique, one-stop shop, record label developed to be the champion of the musician with the baking power of the largest music manufacturer in the world. Yamaha Entertainment Group is branding, promotion, concert production, content development, product placement, tour support, piano logistics and artist relations all rolled into one. Home to more than 3,600 talented artists, Yamaha Entertainment Group is responsible for the development and advancement of the Yamaha brand name through numerous artist related activities worldwide.
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