From the first quietly unsettling notes of Susan Chan’s East West Encounter, it’s clear that this is no ordinary piano CD. A delicate initial passage suddenly explodes into a dramatic and resonant section of lower keys; two contemporary pieces rooted in Chinese literature are an intriguing lead-in to Beethoven’s Sonata in E minor, op. 90 and Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1. That the structure and sound of music can operate as a sort of narrative language is quite evident here. These are selections that evoke the implacability of landscape, the sweet sharp pain of spiritual longing, and the heady delirium of early love.

Chan performed all the pieces on East West Encounter for her New York debut recital at Carnegie Hall in November 2000, which garnered her some glowing prose from The New York Concert Review. In addition to her work as associate professor of music at Washington State University, Chan also regularly performs as soloist and chamber musician throughout the U.S., Canada, Asia, Australia, and Europe. She holds degrees from Indiana University and the University of Hong Kong and has done postgraduate work at Yale University and the Trinity College of Music in London.

Both her considerable scholarship and her intuitive feel for the music are displayed on East West Encounter. She plays with a delicious restraint throughout but perhaps most so in the second track, “Warrior,” from Scenes from a Jade Terrace, by the 20th-century composer Alexina Louie. Chan maintains a thundering, ominous presence with the lower register while keeping the high keys both light and taut, achieving a beautiful, tensile balance. And in the “West” selections, the Liszt, the Beethoven, the Franck and the Chopin, she brings a disciplined lightness and sensitivity to these familiar forms. In Chan’s capable hands, East truly meets West; the result is nothing short of sublime.

—Sheri Boggs, Arts and Culture Editor, The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Susan Chan
2001