Thank you for purchasing Justin James Piano V.1 featuring the classical piano music of Chopin, Debussy, Scriabin and Rachmaninoff. Please note, the audio files are high quality Mpeg3 at 320kbps and are 160mb in total. May not be compatible with Mozilla Firefox web browser and certain iPad operating systems. If there are any problems downloading, please email me and I will provide link, once there is proof of purchase.
Justin James Piano V.1 – Reviews
“On this his first CD, Justin James reveals himself to be an artist of considerable depth. One is left with the strong impression that technique is always at the service of the music. The moments of high drama are always crafted within a convincing overall understanding of structure and there is never a sense of “selling out” to bravura for bravura’s sake. Conversely, Justin James seems at pains to explore the intimate nature of the works and he does so with great sincerity and feeling. His voicing in the left hand is often extremely delicate, almost to a fault at times. My overall impression of this CD is one of admiration. Justin James is a serious artist and is deserving of recognition and wide exposure.” Paul Wright (University of Western Australia) ****
“I am most impressed with Justin James Piano V.1. His playing is excellent and it is truly amazing that he managed to record everything in one short session. His excellent technique goes without saying. I also like being able to hear exactly where left and right hand fitted together in the Chopin, rather than hearing a flurry of notes blurred by the pedal as often one hears. I also liked his use of rubato there. The C Sharp Prelude from Rachmaninoff came as a surprise, but the extra time allowed all the overtones from the introductory octaves. This is certainly one of my favourite CD’s and I will play it often. So many of these pieces are well known to me but he brings something fresh to each of them. Perhaps it is better to be introspective rather than outwardly showy as so many pianists are these days.” Jean Collen (BA Hons /LTCL Trinity College London) *****
“One of the most difficult tasks for this reviewer is how hard to judge a self-produced recording? Being familiar with some of the “greats” of the piano world, by what standard do you judge a piano recording that, as it were, lobs in the door – do you judge it against the Arrau’s, Richter’s, Argerich’s of the world? In the end, although you want to make allowances, you have to listen to what they have to say and measure them up against what you have heard that such music can potentially say in the hands of such masters.
Justin James is a Western Australian pianist who has self-produced and self-marketed his first recording, with nearly 53 minutes of the works of Chopin, Debussy, Scriabin and Rachmaninoff. This might be described as a “brave” endeavour in a world flooded by hopeful and ambitious pianists. What he has produced is a statement that announces the appearance of a new Australian talent that indeed has something unique to say. Whilst it is difficult to agree with everything he has to say – or with exactly how he says it – there is no denying there is a clear force of insightful personality behind these interpretations. And they grow on you with time.
The first six tracks are all Chopin, starting with the beloved Nocturne in E flat major – with phrasing that struck me ambivalently at first, but as it proceeds it gains conviction, although the pacing is somewhat quirkily variable. The so-called Minute Waltz perhaps starts a little too fast, although without loss of clarity, and ends with elegance, if again slightly rushed. However once we reach the Raindrop prelude, the variations in pacing are just right – with just the right weight balances between right and left hand; then as we reach the build up in tension, the left hand assumes slightly too much ascendancy – until the quiet ending, handled with great sensitivity and touch. The 20th Prelude exudes great dignity, before the Waterfall Etude (op.10 no.1) in which the waterfall wavers a little unsteadily as does the wind in the Winter Wind Etude (op.25 no.11).
The first of the two Debussy works is the Arabesque No.1: this interpretation perhaps reveals Justin James playing with the greatest conviction and beauty on this recording, an absolutely convincing rendition in its authority and great balance. Then Debussy’s Image no.2, book 2 – the moon descending on the ruins of the Temple – starts with much less conviction and cohesion but still provided much food for thought in its take on this enigmatic masterpiece, especially in its latter stages.
The first of two Scriabin pieces, the Etude op.8 no.2, a seeming homage to Chopin, is performed with technical precision perhaps lacking a little heart, like the second piece, the Etude op. 8 no. 4, said to be like Chopin, but in this interpretation actually seeming to look forward more to Debussy: its performance again seems a little hollow, although still technically proficient.
The first of four Rachmaninoff pieces that follow is the famous Prelude op.3 no.2 with its striking chords played with strength but without overemphasis or melodrama – striking a balance between passion and sensitivity. The reflective Rachmaninoff Prelude Op.23 no. 4 brings the Debussy side of Rachmaninoff beautifully into focus, whereas speed and virtuosity seems to have led to some sacrifice in musicality in the Prelude op.23 no. 7. In the final Rachmaninoff work, the Moment Musical op.16 no.4, the phenomenal virtuosic demands of the piece are mostly met, as the left hand gives the impression of being rushed, but this piece still manages to be a tour de force with which to end this propitious debut recording.” Andrew Dziedzic (2MBS FM/102.5 Fine Music) ****
“I don’t remember ever listening to music that had so much soul and feeling in it. It was sublime and I was sorry when it ended.” Evelyn Osborne ****
“Justin is one of those very rare artistic talents that are hard to define in commercial terms. He has an abundance of natural ability and is able to play several instruments fluently. There is no doubting his piano facility and also a very strong understanding of form in his first classical piano recording. What was confounding for me, was that he virtually recorded this album on the tail end of several years studying jazz and playing in piano bars. Knowing Justin for the contemporary keyboard player he is, I can’t wait to hear anything he writes and produces for the current era, but in the meantime, his classical is still among the best I have ever heard, and there are plenty.” John Rowe *****