Fanfare Magazine’s Colin Clarke says Nadia Shpachenko’s Invasion: Music and Art for Ukraine is “Not To Be Missed”:
“Spratlan’s music is viscerally exciting, a sonic representation of (understandable) anxiety via a preponderance of gesture. The performance is as good as one could imagine. It falls to Shpachenko to present Piano Suite No. 1 (2021), a somewhat Schoenbergian utterance, perhaps particularly in the initial “Capriccio.” Shpachenko truly understands, as does Spratlan, the expressive nature of dissonance, while “Dirge” takes a bass melody, constantly repeating it a semitone higher; when the melody arrives in the treble, it morphs into an ostinato. The final “Pastorale” is a kind of mild moto perpetuo, cheeky in Shpachenko’s account, that contains all sorts of surprises; there are moments of purest beauty, too. The piece is remarkably charming, as are the Six Rags (all composed in 2018). There’s no missing the rag element, and each of these is inspired by features of the New England landscape. One might call this advanced rag composition, perhaps especially in the depths of the second, “Speck Pond Rag,” where one might find hints of a slowed down “Shrovetide Fair” (Petrushka) or perhaps, a touch later, hints of Mussorgsky’s Pictures. This is a remarkable set of miniatures, played brilliantly by Shpachenko, who understands exactly when to bring back the innocence of ragtime within a far deeper context (Rag No. 3, “Mahoossuc Notch Rag”); and now Spratlan so expertly juxtaposes the two.… That final rag is a staggering achievement compositionally, and Spratlan has a fierce proponent in Shpachenko.
The Two Sonatas again defy expectations… Finally, there comes Wonderer, which takes us to another world. … While there is no denying the visceral effect of Invasion, my ears tell me this is the deeper piece, as it calls on collective memory. Spratlan’s virtuosity in moving between tonal references (as memory) and spikier, post-Prokofiev toccata is fascinating, and Shpachenko’s virtuosity in realizing this ideal is remarkable. This is a terrific performance of a wonderful piece; it is worth hearing this disc for Wonderer alone. … All the performers (primarily Shpachenko) are magnificent; the music absolutely is worth hearing; and the booklet is almost a work of art in itself. A word, finally, is due for the engineers. Piano recordings are notoriously hard to make, but Shpachenko is caught beautifully. Recommended unhesitatingly.—Colin Clarke, Fanfare