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In Good Hands

18 JUL 08 VIVIEN SCHWEITZER

In the liner notes for the new Telarc release Piano Music Of Salonen, Stucky And Lutoslawski, Steven Stucky modestly writes that he and Esa-Pekka Salonen are both "confirmed non-pianists who risk writing awkwardly for the instrument." Those risks certainly paid off, especially in the brilliant hands of Gloria Cheng whose imaginative and virtuosic playing is faultless throughout.

The disc opens with "Four Album Leaves" (2002) and concludes with the "Three Little Variations for David" (2001) by Stucky, who writes that both he and Salonen consider the Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski (who died in 1994) a musical father figure. Stucky's short, colorful, sometimes impressionistic character pieces are in the vein of those Schumann and Chopin wrote in the 19th Century.

Cheng offers a powerful performance in this world premiere recording of Lutoslawski's turbulent "Sonata for Piano." Written in 1934 during the composer's student days, it reflects the influences of Ravel and Stravinsky.

The disc also includes three works by Salonon, who relinquishes his position as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the end of the 2008-09 season. His "Yta II" (1985), a colorful explosion of runs and darting fragments was influenced by cartoons. The "Three Preludes" (2005) includes the enigmatic and sometimes frenetic whirlwind of "Libellula Meccanica." The dauntingly virtuosic "Mécanisme," the first movement of "Dichotomie," (1999-2000) is a driven panoply of crashing colorful chords and relentless dissonant figures.