Pianist Jenny Q Chai has released a thrilling new album of music by Bach, Ives, and Schumann on the Divine Art Recordings Group label. Available now as both a physical CD and in digital format, Songs of Love presents Schumann’s legendary Kreisleriana alongside two movements by Bach and Ives as Jenny’s tribute to her esteemed first teacher at the Curtis Institute, the late Seymour Lipkin who she calls ‘my music grandpa’. The album can be acquired through major music retailers, and through the Divine Art label directly: divineartrecords.com
Known for performing and recording new music, Jenny Q Chai also proves herself a superior interpreter of classic works for piano in this album, her first featuring compositions of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): Aria from the ‘Goldberg’ Variations, BWV 988
Charles Ives (1874-1954): ‘The Alcotts’ from Piano Sonata No. 2 (the ‘Concord’)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856): Kreisleriana, Op.16
Jenny has a special connection with Robert Schumann, whose work she learned from Lipkin, with whom she studied from the ages of 12 to 19. She has a special love for Kreisleriana which she says never grows old but ’ lives inside of you’. Hence the title, “Songs of Love”.
Lipkin, also a great Beethoven interpreter, “was known as a very tough teacher, but he was always sweet to me,” says Chai. “I wanted to evoke Mr. Lipkin and Beethoven — without actually recording Beethoven.” Charles Ives quotes the famous beginning of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in “The Alcotts” from the “Concord” Sonata, the second selection on this album. Published in 1921, the work is an enduring invention of this original and idiosyncratic composer.
“Everything comes from Bach,” according to Jenny Q Chai, so it is fitting that the Aria to his “Goldberg Variations” should begin this album. Robert Schumann found Bach to be “an inexhaustible source of ideas,” and even after thirty variations, the aria doesn’t seem at all exhausted and, as it is reprised at the end of the piece, it is as fresh as it was at the beginning.
The musician and conductor Johannes Kreisler was the creation of the extraordinary imagination of the author, composer, conductor, and music critic E. T. A. Hoffmann, one of the initiators of the Romantic movement in German literature and music. Hoffmann’s novel, in which Kreisler appears, purportedly has two authors — one is a cat, who pours out his life story, while the other is the narrator who recounts the remarkable tale of Kreisler.
Kreisler captivated the imagination of Robert Schumann and was the inspiration for his eight-movement fantasy cycle: Kreisleriana. Perhaps the novel with two authors appealed to Schumann, who sometimes attributed his writings to “Florestan the wild,” and at other times to “Eusebius the mild.”
Written in just a few days in April 1838, Kreisleriana is one of the great pieces of the Romantic era. Schumann’s contemplative lyricism and passionate spontaneity combine to express both the intriguing personality of Kreisler and of Schumann himself.
A champion and noted interpreter of 20th century and contemporary works as well as core repertoire, Jenny Q Chai also works to develop new interactive music score software and teaching in China and the USA. She both founded and manages the Face Art Institute of Music, a Shanghai-based music school devoted to bringing Western music education to China, and has served on the board of Ear to Mind, the contemporary music organization in New York. She is currently based both in Shanghai and in California where she is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley.
The New Yorker described Jenny as “a pianist whose dazzling facility is matched by her deep musicality”. On top of all that she also projects a modern and liberated self image.