Album reviews / by Elizabeth Roe

Elizabeth Joy Roe Decca.jpg

Elizabeth's Britten + Barber album is gathering critical accolades around the world:

  • BBC Radio 3: "The Britten sparkles, glitters and glows splendidly ... with Roe making an impressive job of negotiating the finger-knotting demands of the [Barber] finale .... All in all, an impressive concerto debut."
  • New Zealand Herald: 5 STARS. "American pianist comes up with the perfect transatlantic concerto coupling ... You'll be won over by Roe's effortless brilliance."
  • Classical Ear (UK): 5 STARS. Elizabeth Joy Roe’s coupling of the Britten and Barber Piano Concertos has several claims for attention. The first appearance together on disc of two brilliantly contrasted essays in expressive 20th-century tonalism, it’s also the first recording on Decca of the Britten since Richter’s agenda-setting 1970 account conducted by the composer for the same label. More importantly, here is playing from soloist and orchestra alike of dash and ringing determination that stands proudly on its own terms. Roe compares favourably to her illustrious predecessor in a reading of dazzling technique, remarkable muscularity and emotional immediacy. She’s backed by a London Symphony Orchestra firing on all cylinders under the keenly knowing baton of Emil Tabakov. The no less demanding Barber positively seethes and boils with an almost untameable ardour, skilfully contained by Roe with deceptively eloquent ease. The attractive fillers – Barber’s pristine homage to John Field and Britten’s scurrying nocturne – are despatched with equal aplomb. Roe’s own notes and full-bodied sound add to the considerable pleasure.
  • The Guardian: 4 STARS. "Her playing of Britten’s powerful 1938 concerto has an allure ... it’s urgent and occasionally darkly sinister, a perfect reflection of the nervous year in which it was written. And Roe is more than a match for the demands of Samuel Barber’s exuberantly difficult 1962 concerto."
  • Voix des Arts: "What makes this disc an exceptional delight is the manner in which her written eloquence is unaffectedly manifested in her playing of the Concerti. It is also a superlative recorded—and superlatively-recorded—introduction to the solo work of a young lady who seems to possess every quality needed to become one of the Twenty-First Century’s most imaginative pianists."
  • The Arts Desk: "brilliantly done ... with rare flexibility and freedom ... handled with aplomb"
  • Sinfini Music: "...enchanting and profound in all the right places, with Roe's eloquent handling of the solo material matched by some beautiful orchestral solos .... the percussive, muscular piano-writing proves to be the perfect vehicle for Roe's sure, sharp technique, resulting in some sparkling passagework ... Perhaps the best is saved to last, as the programme winds elegantly down with a nocturne from each composer, both gorgeously rendered."

Additionally, the Anderson & Roe Piano Duo's Bach album recently received a strong review in Gramophone:

For their third Steinway & Sons release, the Anderson & Roe Piano Duo dedicate their uncanny ensemble prowess and canny programme-building to JS Bach. The eloquent reserve of Kurtág’s so-called E flat Sonatina leads into the C major Concerto for two keyboards (sans orchestra), which stands out for the duo’s gorgeously calibrated legato phrasing in the slow movement, plus relaxed propulsion and playful conversational ease in the fugal finale. While the idea of five St Matthew Passion numbers arranged into a two-piano suite is tantamount to box-office poison, it actually works. What is more, the duo’s restraint and taste reveal how the music’s expressive poignancy stands up without sung texts. Perhaps more varied phrasings would have brought out more of the Art of Fugue Contrapunctus IX’s vivacity but the pianists’ double-dotting in Bach’s two keyboard arrangement of the three-voice mirror fugue allows the music to dance off the page. Subtle dissonant inflections and feathery staccato articulation distinguish a selection of Canons based on the Goldberg Variations’ ground. A specially arranged aria from Cantata No 127 (with the excellent violin soloist Augustin Hadelich as special guest) gently wanders into Romantic pianism’s registral extremes. The duo link the outer movements of the Bach/Reger Third Brandenburg Concerto (what a tempo for the finalAllegro!) with a cadenza that liberally quotes from theChromatic Fantasy’s arpeggiated chord sequence. And why not? After all, Bach borrowed – indeed, stole – from himself all the time. Certainly he would have embraced Anderson & Roe’s ingenuity and musicianship.

Anderson & Roe are also featured in Wired Magazine's article on Steinway's new Spirio instrument.

Some recent shots from the 2015 Juilliard in Aiken Festival (photo credit: Brent Cline):