Shadow Piano

Shadow Piano

A toy piano in the woods: life, death and memory
Scott Wilson
Lou Bunk
Andrew Lewis
Derek Hurst
John Young
Katharine Norman
Xenia Pestova
Catalog Number: 

Bangor, United Kingdom

Release Date: 
Nov 19, 2013
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

This debut solo release from Xenia Pestova follows on the heels of her piano duo recordings of seminal works by Stockhausen and Cage for Naxos Records, and brings together six carefully-crafted new works for keyboard instruments and electronics in an intricate and seductive blend of unusual sonorities and shimmering hues. Far from being “effects” or tools for processing instrumental sound, the electronic identities blend and interact with the acoustic sounds in the same way that complex technologies extend our minds in daily life, becoming transparent and inseparable from our selves.

Pestova has been specialising in contemporary repertoire with extended techniques and new technologies, in particular works for piano and live electronics. This album builds on the pianist’s close collaborative links with six leading electronic music composers and also introduces the toy piano, a keyboard instrument with an unusual history.Taken doubly out of context, this children’s toy assumes the role of a fully-fledged concert instrument with its own body of virtuosic repertoire post-John Cage’s Suite of 1948, crossing over into non-standard spaces and performance modes through the addition of computer processing techniques.

"On the Impossibility of Reflection" by Scott Wilson exploits the idea of mutating delay lines and resonance in an improbable game of call and response between the piano and the computer. Lou Bunk's "being and becoming" is a Zen-like meditation on a quiet cell played with subtle variation on the fragile toy piano and blossoming in a surprising development. Andrew Lewis' "Schattenklavier" (shadow-piano) contemplates life and death and pays homage to Stockhausen, quoting and transforming the piano part of "Gruppen" in counterpoint with an electronic counterpart. Derek Hurst's "An Wem: Notes from Underground" is a short and crunchy statement in three interconnected movements, again on the toy piano, while "X" by John Young has the pianist weave intricate Messiaenic harmonies around a flexible electroacoustic sculpture. The concluding "Fuga Interna (begin)" by Katharine Norman is a poem of memory, childhood piano lessons and loss of her mother as well as the loss of memory; connecting the past, present and future.

This project is also a collaboration with photographer and visual artist Veronika von Volkova, whose sensual, dark and dreamlike images are featured on the CD and its companion book of photography, available directly from the artist.

Xenia Pestova is a concert pianist with an unusual and colourful profile. As a dedicated promoter of music by living composers, she has commissioned, premiered, recorded and broadcast numerous new works, and is a frequent collaborator on the creation of interdisciplinary projects with new technologies.
 Her recording of Stockhausen’s “Mantra” with Amsterdam-based pianist Pascal Meyer is widely praised in the international press and hailed as “a highly accomplished presentation of one of the landmark pieces in the second half of the 20th century” in the Guardian. In addition to her love for the piano, she enjoys performing on other keyboard instruments and interfaces, including her ever-growing collection of toy pianos. She is a Schoenhut Concert Artist and is currently the Head of Performance at the Bangor University School of Music in North Wales.


"[A] terrific album of dark, probing music ...  [J]agged, glassy toy-piano flurries are awash in nightmarish refractions of synthesized and sampled sonic abstractions. Hold tight." [FULL ARTICLE]
Peter Margasak

“Xenia Pestova has the sense of adventure, sensitivity to the techniques and stylistic particularities of high modernism and the poetic soul to bring this music to fruition in the best ways. … [T]he entire program flows together as one unified statement. Every composer comes through with an important and interesting contribution. … This is one of the most integral and rewarding programs of new music for keys and electronics I have heard. It will affirm the centrality of the colored abstractions of high modern music today for all who have ears to hear it. Highly recommended.” [FULL ARTICLE]
Greg Edwards

"[A]n uncompromising artist resolutely committed to bringing the music of living composers to life. … Pestova impresses as a model of poise and control in never being derailed by the activity happening around her. … [A] thoroughly credible collection for those whose taste runs to contemporary piano-based composition." [FULL ARTICLE]

"[B]eautiful stuff. … The final two [pieces] on the album … show intelligence, a strong integration of electroacoustics, and real performance sensitivity." [FULL ARTICLE]
François Couture

"Xenia Pestova is capable of showing us that piano music also has a third dimension … an extremely good and fresh presentation of how piano music and playing could be." [FULL ARTICLE]
Gerald Van Waes

"[The pieces] enable [Pestova] to hold the piano as unpredictable field of mystery, transformations, confusions, moods, research, secrets and atmospheric twists. … This debut has confirmed that she is indeed one of the leading performers of contemporary nonconformist music." [FULL ARTICLE — In Czech]
Zdeněk Slabý

…a deep, resonating sound...
- The Ottawa Citizen

technically excellent, musically rewarding, and committed performances
- Fanfare

...a mesmerising trip... remarkably sensuous
- The New Zealand Herald

…an intriguing multimedia performance…
- Notations (Canadian Music Centre)

Magnificent clarity of intelligence… impressive endurance during a seventy-minute “trance”…
-Le Temps, Geneva

…exceptional freedom of expression, fluid and natural…
-La Republique, France

…panther-like pianist… superb timing
Noordhollands Dagblad, Amsterdam