Tania Stavreva: Rhythm and Movement

The pianist Tania Stavreva’s official debut album, Rhythmic Movement, will be released tomorrow, January 7, 2017. If you own a music store, you will enjoy the debate you will have with yourself regarding which section to locate the CD: Classical? Jazz?

Today is the last day to order the album before its release: $10 for a digital download, $15 for a signed CD.

Stavreva, born and raised in Bulgaria, has been earning accolades and awards for her music for several years. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2009, and in 2016 she gave the world premiere performance of Mason Bates’ “The Caged Bird Sings” on the main stage at Carnegie Hall, the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage.

Stavreva brings music wherever it brings her: Carnegie Hall as well as jazz nightclubs and theaters, where she has been in the vanguard of classical musicians adapting the rhetoric of the recital hall for audiences in our multimedia-saturated, technology-mediated age.

Those performances have attracted much of the media’s attention on Stavreva, with articles devoted to her appearance and dress. Many reviews refer to her as a “petite dynamo” and “edgy” and “sexy,” and all of that makes me blush as I type it. One collaboration included a live body-painting performance while Stavreva played piano. (She is not who was painted.) To this day, she reports, audience members ask tongue-in-cheek: “Oh? No body-painting tonight?”

A visit to Stavreva’s website reveals a musician with a repertoire that is already vast, ranging from Chopin, Ravel, Debussy, and beyond, yet is still growing as she builds symbiotic relationships with contemporary composers like Mason Bates (not yet 40, he is the first ever composer-in-residence with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts). One entire area of her website is labeled “Metal/Rock/Experimental.” One could nickname her “Slash” for the prolific use that punctuation mark receives in describing her areas of musical interest.

All of the facets of her music personality—Classical, Jazz, contemporary—were united in making her debut album. She produced the album herself, but her engineer is a legend in rock and jazz: Ron Saint Germain, who has worked with Jimi Hendrix, Sonic Youth, U2, Ornette Colemen, Mos Def, Michael Jackson, Living Colour.

Saint Germain introduced her to Will Calhoun of Living Colour, and the two collaborated on a fascinating rhythm exchange (hence the album’s title): a musical discussion of “Ruvido ed ostinato” by the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. Track seven features Stavreva performing the piece on piano, like this live (from 2013) performance from her YouTube channel:

And to conclude the album, Calhoun and Stavreva improvise “Ritmico y Distorsionado,” based on Ginastera’s piece:

The album also includes a composition by Mason Bates, one by Nikolai Kapustin, two by Stavreva herself, and several brief Bulgarian dance pieces.

Jazz. Classical. All brought together without slashes in the person of a fine musician whom you will hear more from in the coming years.

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One last glimpse of Tania Stavreva’s talent: a live performance of Claude Debussy’s famous piece “Clair de Lune,” from 2015:

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