PRIZE ‘Scenes in Tin Can Alley’ Music for piano (Josh Tatsuo Cullen)

Little can be added to Andrew Farach-Colton’s detailed article in the November 2021 issue on the life and art of Florence Price (1887-1953), whose prolific creative output is experiencing an unprecedented renaissance, with dozens of musicians surfing the wave. Or, if you want to be cynical, jump on the bandwagon. There is no doubt, however, that Josh Tatsuo Cullen’s rendition of the short, charming piano pieces collected for this release is an act of utmost sincerity and a true labor of love. He believes in this music and plays it with finesse, flair and conviction.

In the triumvirate of tracks, Cullen brings genuine enthusiasm to the syncopations of “The Huckster” and conveys the frolicking aura of “Children at Play” without trivializing the music’s disarming melody. Miniature sketches of a day in the life of a washerwoman receives serious and noble reading; Here, Cullen revels in the bubbly, Gershwinesque chords and soft trills of ‘Morning’, sings heartily of ‘Evening Shadows’ and plays ‘A Gay Moment’ much faster and louder than Kirsten Johnson’s recording (which comes to release on Guild).

Cullen breathes the impressionist Clouds with the same concern for nuance and tonal application that a pianist like Ivan Moravec brought to Debussy. Conversely, it serves cotton dance like the impactful cake that it is. He also plays the cycle of five Preludes with all the eloquence and simplicity they demand. A more intense and daring reading of the fifth prelude might underline the Schumannian urgency of the music, but that is nitpicking. Beautiful annotations and sound.

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