Tall Poppies


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Slow Food

Elena Kats-Chernin • piano

$23   (Australian dollars)


buy at: AMC - Buywell - iTunes

Food and music are true companions.
It’s not often that they get together in the music industry!

This CD represents a unique collaboration between two wonderful Australian artists: popular composer and pianist Elena Kats-Chernin, and her friend, celebrated chef, Kylie Kwong. Recorded by Tall Poppies Records as a 50th birthday gift for Elena, this music is for listening to over dinner. The gentle style of the music suggested the title “Slow Food”.

Kylie Kwong has contributed a wonderful dish for the cover, and the recipe is in the CD booklet. Kylie’s talented brother Paul Kwong designed the art for the CD.

The title refers to two current trends in food - slow food either as long-cooked food (not fast food) or as food that has not had to travel too far to the table. This CD celebrates the latter meaning. The music is also slow, in that it hasn’t had to travel too far to the listener! Recorded in Sydney’s beautiful Angel Place Recital Hall, this CD presents Elena Kats-Chernin as performer of her own music, initiating a series of CDs of Australians playing their own music from Tall Poppies. Elena is a powerful and sensitive pianist, and these are some of her favourite piano pieces.

This CD includes Elena playing Eliza Aria, the piece of hers which shot to fame as result of its use in a series of animated TV ads in the UK for Lloyds Bank. It is available for download as a ringtone and has been listed as No 1 on the UK ITunes Classical Chart.

Tall Poppies recommends that you cook dinner, light the candles, play this music and enjoy the magic!

Elena Kats-CherninSecond Door on the Left
Russian Waltz
Luke’s Painting
Eliza Aria
Naive Waltz
Kwong Song Two
Silvery Night
Silver Eucalypt
Green Leaf
Road to Harvest Slow
Mute Princess
Burnished Silver
Melancholic Piece
Silver Pearls
Silver Poetry
Phoenix Story ‘Tears from Above’


To celebrate Elena Kats-Chernin's fiftieth birthday, Belinda Webster, Artistic Director of Tall Poppies Records, offered her the chance to record a solo piano CD of her own works. Tall Poppies also used the CD to start a series of recordings of Australian composers performing their own material. After hearing the piano works Webster suggested the title Slow Food. Kats-Chernin embraced the idea and had her friend and chef, Kylie Kwong, contribute a dish to the recording notes (an Organic Pickled Beetroot and Egg Salad with Steamed Flathead Fillets for those interested). To many the title "Slow Food" implies food that has been cooked for a long time-a four-hour roast-but the artists prefer the "green" interpretation; that is, food that has not travelled too far to get to the table, and hence is better for you and the planet.

As Belinda Webster comments, the music on this CD is generally "restrained in pace". It is subtle, sensitive and, melancholic-minimal. Some of the works are originally for piano but many of the others are arranged from different settings. The programme notes are informative and if you have the time to read them (between entrée and the main course perhaps) they lend a great deal of understanding to the works. My favourite back story comes from the first track, Second door on the left, composed for Kats-Chernin's son, Nick. After complaining that his mother had never written a piece for him, the composer toiled for a couple of hours and then played him this song. "OK good enough, thanks, mum," was his response.

Fans of Kats-Chernin will be delighted with the inclusion of an arrangement of one of her most popular pieces, the "Eliza Aria" from Wild Swans. Two other works from Wild Swans also make an appearance-"Green Leaf" and "Mute Princess". Four other tracks come from the Silver Poetry Suite. Originally for flute, piano and cello, the works depict -Australian images: "Silvery Night", "Silver Eucalypt", "Burnished Silver" and "Silver Pearls".

The composer is reticent to describe herself as a concert pianist, however she plays with grace and expression, and to hear a composer perform her own works, especially on these types of pieces, to my ear lends a greater pathos and depth of expression that another performer would have trouble producing.

The album has been beautifully recorded and the works were performed on the Steinway in the Angel Place City Recital Hall. During the recording session, the composer joked that the music would be suitable for people to play during dinner. Whereas most composers would be aghast that their hard work and talent is reduced to a form of muzak, in this case the composer is perfectly happy for you to, pour some wine, and enjoy the beautiful sounds and a delicious meal. Could you ask for anything more?
Reviewed by Craig Dabelstein
Music Forum January 2010

My last encounter with Elena Kats-Chernin’s captivating music came in the shape of three works on an ABC disc devoted to the composer. There we had the Second Piano Concerto, the Wild Swans concert suite and Mythic and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. Elements of the concert suite make a reappearance here because some of the pieces are heard in versions for solo piano. If you know the soprano-and-orchestral version you will enjoy hearing these stripped back, pared down versions.

‘Slow Food’ is the disc’s title and there’s a culinary motif in the booklet – not least on the front cover and in the composer’s favourite recipe, which you can, as the saying goes, make at home - it’s Organic pickled beetroot and egg salad with steamed flathead fillets. The title also refers to the predominantly slow tempi of the pieces, all of which are performed by the composer.

The first was written for the composer’s son and it’s lightly up-tempo, a lyrical song, whereas Russian Waltz is a simplified Rag and full of wistful charm. Painting shows how spare and limpid writing can still be truly evocative. The Eliza aria from Wild Swans may be better known from a TV advertisement and its unpretentious but catchy warmth is shared by the Naïve Waltz. Much of the writing is treble-orientated but the bass keys get a visit in the Chopinesque Silvery Night – full of rolled chords and a nineteenth century salon feel. It’s a theme revisited in Silver Poetry. And another influence on her is Tchaikovsky, specifically the piano music, as in Autumn which pays oblique homage to The Seasons.

Road to Harvest Slow shows a certain kinship with the music from the film The Piano – Kats-Chernin’s music has occasionally reminded me of Nyman and Adams in the past. This is a discreet and very lyrical piece, which exists in several versions. The big last track, Phoenix Story "Tears from Above" shows the same influences. Her admiration for Michel Legrand is shown in Burnished Silver with its full complement of rich harmonies. There’s great lyric tracery in one of my favourites from among the selection of nineteen – Silver Pearls from Silver Poetry.

This is a feast for Kats-Chernin’s admirers – delightful music, sensitively played by the composer and judiciously recorded.
Jonathan Woolf

A 50th birthday gift for the composer from Belinda Webster of the Tall Poppies label, this sequence of 19 tracks is all Kats-Chernin: original and rearranged pieces from throughout her career, all performed at the piano by the composer herself. The tone is quiet and unruffled, most of the pieces about three minutes long, although the final track, Phoenix Story, is close to 10 minutes and paints a more intense musical narrative. Kats-Chernin whimsically sees the collection as suitable dinner music; hence the title, the cover pictiure and a recipe in the enclosed booklet; a not-too-complicated organic-emphasising speciality dreamed up by Sydney chef Kylie Kwong.
Clive O'Connell The Age Oct 25, 2008

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