Christina Petrowska-Quilico: Retro Americana review – A dry piano record

Fri, Oct 1, 2021, 05:00



Christina Petrowska-Quilico

Navona Records


The publicity material for Canadian pianist Christina Petrowska-Quilico’s latest album calls it an “eclectic cornucopia” that explores “an entire century’s worth of North American piano music”. Put the emphasis on the eclectic rather than the cornucopia.

You won’t find any Samuel Barber, Elliott Carter or Aaron Copland in a collection that starts with Henry Cowell and works its way, in this order, through Frederic Rzweski, George Gershwin, Bill Wescott and Meredith Monk to Art Tatum.

Both playing and recordings (from various venues, some of them live) are on the dry side. This certainly suits the opening selection of six of Cowell’s Ings – Floating, Frisking, Fleeting, Scooting, Wafting and Seething. These wry, etude-like blocks by the grandson of a Bishop of Kildare sound much more modern than their date of composition, around 1920, would suggest.

Rzewski’s Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues, strewn with rapidly alternating hand clusters, has intriguingly less thunder than usual. And in Monk’s four pieces – Paris, Window in 7’s, St Petersburg Waltz and Railroad (Travel Song) – there’s an expressive reserve that gives the music its own clear voice.

Westcott’s Suite evoking boogie and ragtime sounds rather maudlin. A Gershwin suite and the two Tatum numbers are twisted by inappropriate rubato. Cowell, Rzewski and Monk are the attractions here.