REVIEWS of CDs
Four Hands for France (2021) TOCN0007
'The only word for the performances of Stephanie McCallum and Erin Helyard is “perfection”...In terms of musicianship, coordination of performance, and sympathy for the repertoire, this recording is a stand-out and I can easily imagine the composers themselves applauding it if they were here today.' Music Web International Jan 5, 2022 William Kreindler
Roy Agnew Piano Music TOCC0496
“Flying under the radar for too long, Roy Agnew re-emerges here as a gifted composer who died before the full extent of his talents could find expression...There could be no better advocate for Agnew’s music than McCallum, an accomplished pianist with deep musical insights and a superb technique...Stephanie McCallum, one of Australia’s most distinguished pianists, is an outstanding musician who has achieved with this CD an important milestone in revitalising interest in a lesser-known composer."
- Gwen Bennett Loudmouth MusicTrust e-zine. July 2020
"McCallum brings her talent and virtuosity together with a keen sense for historical significance and enjoyment, on a disc that belongs in the collection of every connoisseur of Australian music.'
Five stars. - Ben Wilkie Limelight February 2020
"Most of these pieces make premiere appearance on disc in this recital. Only the Toccata, Drifting Mists, the 1929 Sonata and Sonata Poème have been recorded before. McCallum is a vibrant and sensitive exponent of Agnew’s music, never inflating it, but
drawing its profile with poetic discretion."
-Jonathan Woolf MusicWeb International. December 2019
Alexandre BOELY Piano Music Vol. 1 CD TOCC0471 1853 Erard piano
"The excellence of the playing, the fidelity of the recording and perfect piano sound, to say nothing of the erudition of the sleeve notes, all make this CD hard to resist."
- Philip R Buttall MusicWeb International. July 2018
"The Australian pianist Stephanie McCallum is the perfect advocate of this music: Her booklet notes are phenomenally detailed, well written, and informative; her choice of Érard piano perfectly matches the sound of this music; and her playing is technically polished and musically convincing."
- Scott Noriega Fanfare Nov/Dec 2018
Le Prophète: works for four hands. trptk. TTK0005
Le Prophète: MEYERBEER: Le Prophète Overture; ALKAN: 9 Preludes; MOSCHELES: Weber Homage
Stephanie McCallum & Erin Helyard, p Trptk 5—68 minutes
"I highly recommend the next disc, Meyerbeer; Alkan; Moscheles: Le Prophète: Works for four hands (TRPTK ttk0005d, issued 2016, 67') performed by pianists Stephanie McCallum and Erin Helyard who are best-selling soloists in their own right. This is their debut album as a duet and their orchestral interpretation, breath-taking performances and choice of repertory produce a winning formula. In Charles-Valentin Alkan’s arrangement of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète: Overture (1850), the duo produces a great symphonic sound on the Erard piano from 1847, never harsh and full of intention and depth, keeping the listener wanting more. Alkan’s works for organ have been recorded by Kevin Bowyer, an authority on this repertory, but the Neuf préludes, op.66 (1867, arranged in 1906 by Vianna da Motta (1868–1948), Portuguese pianist, composer and pupil of Liszt) transcribed for two pianos are a real ear-opener. These nine preludes show a myriad of moods and emotions, some of which are subdued and pensive (nos.2, 7, 8) where Alkan reveals his private reveries and religious temperament through his unpredictable harmonies and dissonances, proportionally more than his usual diabolical, intense and hectic volatility. No.9 in particular is a gem of pathos and noble expression. The duo once again brings out the lyrical qualities from the Erard of 1889, where the sound of the low registers adds another dimension of depth. The first recording of this arrangement on the modern piano by Emanuele Delucchi and Vincenzo Maltempo, Alkan: Vianna da Motta complete transcriptions (Toccata Classics tocc0237, issued 2014, 84'), sounds surprisingly less lyrical than the current disc on the Erard. The aforementioned organist Kevin Bowyer recorded the preludes on the title Alkan: Organ works, volume one (Toccata Classics tocc0030, issued 2005, 76') but I find his interpretations almost too nonchalant for this music. For the final work on the disc, we are suddenly taken back what feels like a century on an earlier Erard from 1839 (with later alterations) for Ignaz Moscheles’s Hommage à Weber, op.102 (1842), which sound distinctively shallowand rattling. However, the disc ends on a high note with a lively account of the finale. Overall, this is no doubt one of the most riveting discs I have heard all year and I rate it five stars for performance, choice of repertory, instruments, recording quality and presentation (stylish and engaging liner notes)."
- Yuki Negishi in Early Music February 2019, 136
"...This release is outstanding on many levels, starting with the DVD sized slipcase, expertly designed with a not-quite-black-and-white photograph of one of the three Erard pianos used for the recording. The booklet notes— necessary for an unusual program like this—are by the artists and as good as you will ever find. But track and disc timings are not given. McCallum’s recordings of Alkan solo piano music have been highly praised by me and others at ARG for more than 20 years (Tall Poppies 55+81: M/J 1995, J/A 1998; Toccata 157+158: S/O 2013, M/J 2014). Helyard is an established keyboard soloist, conductor, and professor of musicology at the Melbourne Conservatorium (McCallum teaches in Sydney). Trptk is a new label that prides itself on state-of-the-art recording and reproduction with an eclectic selection of repertoire and artists—and some pretty lofty ideals about the art and communication of music.
Each of the three big works here is performed on a different, meticulously maintained Erard piano (1839 with later alterations, 1847, 1898). These are from the collection at Maison Erard, Amsterdam.
... Few discs I have been sent over many years have had as much to interest the musicologist in me along with almost unknown repertoire to my liking. Finish this off with great recorded sound and performances by hugely skilled pianists and you have a very special release.
James Harrington, American Record Guide. November/December 2017."
"... a wonderful sparkle and energy. This is counterbalanced with the poetry of the central Andantino con moto. Note how in Track 12 (00:26) McCallum's distinctive, soloistic singing line is imaginatively supported by Helyard's very fine accompaniment, always alert, but daringly in the background. Here (as elsewhere) Helyard's experience as an opera conductor and continuo player shines through. Helyard and McCallum make such fine duo partners. Both have the digital master and imagination to coax a vast range of colours and characters from the keyboard. All their choices of characterisation seem in sympathy with the musical writing, and they never lose that invisible thread that projects from the concert platform to the auditorium.
That's a remarkable feat for a recording.
By rights this CD should be in for several awards. It should certainly be on the shelves of every serious performing institution, and in the hands of all who value vital and creative piano playing of the highest quality, not to mention listeners who love to explore rare repertoire. remarkable achievement."
Richard Shaw Alkan Society Bulletin 94
March 2017, page 24 © The Alkan Society
See here for the complete review)
There are five stars on the present CD: the two pianists, and the three 19th-century Érard pianos they play on. - Dave Saemann Fanfare May/June 2017
The music is heard to best advantage on this performance by one of our premier Alkan specialists, Stephanie McCallum, who is joined by Erin Helyardto offer incisive readings that make the most of Alkan’s imaginative harmonic and rhythmic choices, and do so with consistent vigor and wit…strongly recommended.
- Peter J. Rabinowitz Fanfare May/June 2017
The Overture to Le prophète, a 12-minute piece Charles-Valentin Alkan transcribed in 1850 from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera, most readily showcases McCallum and Helyard’s technical precision and skill…
Each piece is richly textured by the movement and play of the instrument, an 1898 Érard, which opens at the touch of each player without losing either the crispness of a hard note nor the smoothness of a softer tone. There is also an incredible closeness between the performers that is evident in their ability to modulate the sound as if they were one performer…
Above all, this is not only a beautiful album for the performance, the pieces chosen, the attention to detail, or the preservation of context, but for the quality of the recording. TRPTK made the recording using 5.1-channel surround sound and high-end audio equipment, and mixed the recording directly from a DXD 352.8 kHz/24-bit stereo master. As a result, the album sounds beautiful—artistically,
aesthetically—and from standards of technical quality, the sound is about as authentic as if we were standing in the room. This, along with the liner notes, written by McCallum and Helyard, as well as the album design (the slightly oversized case is striking), demonstrate these artists’ dedication to their work, studying and understanding in order to give their best and most informed performance.
-Jacqueline Kharouf Fanfare May/June 2017
McCallum and Helyard lace into the transcription’s brummagem excitements, keeping attention rapt… Sound is slightly recessed but incisively clear. As I said, curiosities. But you are curious, aren’t you? Recommended. – Adrian Corleonis Fanfare May/June 2017
It is always an extreme pleasure to review a new release by Stephanie McCallum; moreover, Erin Helyard joins her in a truly superb recital of unique 19th century piano * four hands compositions on the TRPTK label. Three different historical Erard Concert Grands were utilized throughout this entire recording.
The Program - Le Prophete - Works for Four Hands - Stephanie McCallum * Erin Helyard - TRPTK - TT: 67:51 - Giacomo Meyerbeer - i. Le Prophete - Ouverture - (ca. 1850) - arr. Charles-Valentin Alkan - (1813-1888) - (1847 Erard); Charles-Valentin Alkan - (1813-1888) - Neuf Preludes, op. 66 - (1867) - arr. Jose-Vianna da Motta - (1868-1948) - (1906) - ii. - (i) - Moderatamente; iii. - (ii) - Andantino- Allegro moderato; iv. - (iv) - Tempo giusto; v. - (v) - Quasi adagio; vi. - (vi) - Andantino; vii. - (vii) - Alla Giudesca; viii. - (viii) - Lento; ix. - (ix) - Adagio - (1898 Erard); Ignaz Moscheles - (1794-1870) - Hommage a Weber, op. 102 - (1842) - (1839 Erard) - x. - (i) - Allegro vivace; xi. - Iii) - Andantino con molto; xii. - (iii) - Allegro vivace.
The three Erard instruments utilized here are perfect instruments for the wonderfully romantic repertoire chosen by these superb concert pianists.
Moreover, these single strung instruments impact a deep, rich, warm sound which is extremely and rarely found in today's concert instruments. The performances are full of excitement, energy, nuance, wonderful expression, and a true understanding for the musical phrase; nevertheless, these performances are played with a flair for the dramatic which makes for a total enjoyable listening experience. The Meyerbeer is a welcome addition in this excellent transcription; likewise, the brilliantly conceived Nine Preludes of Alkan through a demanding transcription by da Motta. The Moscheles is a clever composition utilizing themes from Weber's operas: Euryanthe and Oberon and its indeed the most fitting composition to end this exciting and memorable release. Excellent program notes are available in this recording. Highly recommended for those musicians, music lovers and piano aficionados who love unique romantic piano - four hands repertoire. One must make some comments about this new and exciting TRPTK label. The sound is truly fantastic. As a new sonic label, latest state of the art recording and playback equipment was utilized here. The end product is indeed stunning to say the least. One wishes the engineers and owners of this exciting label the best of luck in their new and cultural endeavor.
Dennis E. Ferrara. Customer Review on Amazon. August 25, 2017
Guy Ropartz: Piano Music. Toccata Classics TOCC0326
Opening the disc is the suite Dans l’ombre de la montagne, the most substantial work here. The sombre narrative extends across all seven movements, with recurring motives throughout, providing an idée fixe. Ropartz takes his lead from Vincent d’Indy’s Poème des Montagnes, Op.15 and Promenades, Op. 7 by Albéric Magnard, both of which have been recorded by McCallum. She suggests that Ropartz makes direct reference to the d’Indy work in his title. The music throughout is generally of a bleak, thoughtful and reflective persuasion, with some respite being provided by the more animated and cheery fifth movement, marked ‘Ronde’. Stephanie McCallum’s performance of intensity and rhetorical eloquence has exceptional appeal...
The score [Un Prélude Dominical et six pièces à danser pour chaque jour de la semaine] showcases Ropartz’s more impressionistic style, and the music is awash in colour which McCallum imaginatively conveys in this piano arrangement which the composer made in 1930. I particularly like the reflective contrasts in Jeudi, the fifth movement. The jaunty swagger of Samedi brings this alluring suite to a close...
The final two pieces La chanson de Marguerite: Caprice Valse and First-Love: Bluette of 1886, predate the composer’s contact with Franck. These seductively lyrical pieces have an endearing intimacy. McCallum's performances encapsulate the affability, genteel charm and captivating essence of these beguiling miniatures...
These are winning performances, warmly recorded, and make a strong case for both the attractiveness and quality of this composer’s music. Stephanie McCallum’s enthusiastic advocacy adds to the success of the mix.’
– Stephen Greenbank. MusicWeb International February 2016
“Quand la lumière s’en est allée est un grand nocturne de portée philosophique (le crépuscule de la vie), don’t l’ampleur et l’expression soutiennent la comparaison avec le meilleur Fauré...la pianist australienne, Stephanie McCallum, excelle à faire chanter les intrications polyphoniques de ces pages, qui pourraient dérouter des interprètes moins habiles, et en révèle la poésie souveraine par une sonorité chaleureuse. “- Michel Fleury.
Le Pianiste Classica March 2016
‘Stephanie McCallum has given us a close-to-ideal first hearing of these works. She has an extraordinary dynamic range, a keen awareness of harmonic tension and resolution, an expansive approach to rubato, and a sophisticated understanding of Ropartz’s large-scale structural organization. Her technique is formidable…if these pieces are representative, there is every reason to reclaim Ropartz as a major figure in the practice and development of 20th century composition. Highest recommendation.’
Myron Silberstein Fanfare May/June 2016
'Pianist Stephanie McCallum impressed me back in Fanfare 36:6 with a disc of Alkan (Toccata 0157). Her pianism is no less sensitive here, as she presents in impeccable recorded sound a sequence of world premiere recordings of the music of Guy Ropartz,.. The suite Dans l’ombre de la Montaigne (1913), a half-hour piece unified by an idée fixe, is part of a tradition that, as Peter McCallum points out in his excellent booklet notes, includes d’Indy’sPoème des Montaignes, op. 15, and Magnard’s Promenades, op. 7. Stephanie McCallum’s tonal palette is magnificent, and is particularly effective in the delicate seven-minute third movement, “Paysage.”… The whole suite [Prélude Dominical et six pièces à danser] is utterly charming, and McCallum’s touch is a source of constant delight (she seems to treat “Mercredi,” apparently the busiest day in Ropartz’s week if the musical surface is anything to go by, particularly affectionately). The simply gorgeous, meditative “Jeudi” is heard in a beautiful rendition, with McCallum summoning a rich, fluid sound from her instrument; the mood bleeds into a languorous “Vendredi.” The wondrous breeze of carefree Gallic frolic wafts deliciously through the final day, “Samedi.” By some margin the longest day of the week in Ropartz’s world (if only it really felt like that), “Samedi” extends easily over its six minutes, buoyed by McCallum’s light touch…McCallum’s performance [Choral varié] is positively magisterial, invoking organ-like sonorities. The sense of peace towards the conclusion is simply beautiful.'
Colin Clarke Fanfare May/June 2016
Alkan: Complete Recueils de Chants. Volume One. Toccata Classics TOCC0157
"Stephanie McCallum joins the small but august cohort of performers, including Ronald Smith, Raymond Lewenthal, and Marc-Andre Hamelin, who dare to bring Alkan's strange, mannered, but entirely gratifying music to a wider public. Her performance is brilliant."
Mark De Voto. Classical Ear. September 2013
‘It’s really exquisitely played by Stephanie McCallum, who really ‘gets’ the style, I think, and it’s a difficult style to get, because if you do it too much over-the-top it sounds sentimental, and then the other school of Alkan-playing is excessive rigidity because everybody in the nineteenth century said that’s how Alkan played, but I think he was only “rigid” relative to nineteenth-century standards – he would probably sound perfectly normal now. So I think Stephanie McCallum ‘gets’ it, and if you want to get into Alkan yourself, this is an excellent disc to try….She really has wonderfully mastered Alkan’s style.…this is really fantastic playing – stylistically exactly right, with an individual voice – and makes one really wish for the next collections of Chants, because I think the Fifth Book is the most interesting of all, because it has a quasi-improvised transition written in between the second and last pieces. So if you really want to get to know what this Alkan guy is all about, then Stephanie McCallum can really show you very well indeed. ‘
Alkan review BBC radio- Kenneth Hamilton CD Review, BBC Radio 3 11 May 2013
"I initially became acquainted with Stephanie McCallum when I purchased her recording of Alkan’s op. 35 Etudes quite a few years back. I thought it a stunning disc upon first hearing; it has not lost its appeal all these years later…The current collection, featuring the first installment of Alkan’s complete Recueils de Chants, Books 1-3 (of 5 total), is superb. McCallum characterizes each of these little gems perfectly—no easy task when one considers the amount and types of abrupt changes that occur not only between pieces but within them. The recital ends with the encore-like Une fusée, op. 55. Its monumental challenges, easily handled by McCallum, make for a grand conclusion. I eagerly await the second volume in this series."
Scott Noriega. Fanfare. July-August. 2013.
"…McCallum is never less than engaging, savvy in choices of tempo, aware of continuities as the pieces unfold, and deft in projecting Alkan’s bizarre quirkiness…
Stephanie McCallum is giving us a large, allusive, and subtly interleaved swath of Alkan’s most ambivalently tongue-in-cheek production in reliably estimable accounts, following him closely as his obsession deepens, vampire-like, with a forked tongue in both cheeks. After so many tantalizing feints, this is “the rest of the story,” the many and multivalent stories of Alkan’s creative twilight. And another feather in Toccata’s cap in its ongoing Alkan excavations, which have given us such substantial discoveries as the enigmatic, mystical pédalier/organ works and the scintillant duo piano thrillers. Warmest recommendation.
Adrian Corleonis. Fanfare. July-August. 2013 (Included on his Fanfare Want List for 2013)
‘Alkan’s Recueils de Chants are remarkable Mendelssohnian tone poems for piano. In this first edition of a complete series of the five books, Stephanie McCallum plays the first three, adding a work that is making its first appearance on CD, Une fuseé, a delicious spinning song, arpeggiated and drenched in Mendelssohnian vibrancy and drama… McCallum is a practised exponent of Alkan’s music and she has spent a number of years performing and recording it. She is alive to his affectionate Allegrettos and is always extremely effective - I would say at her most supremely stylish -in the third movement Chants (or Choeur or Canon). She deftly evokes the dog bark in that of Book I, and so too the delicate bell peals in the succeeding piece. The flowing agitation of the tensile fifth pieces of the sets is also finely conveyed… The Third Book is again warmly and acutely performed… With first class booklet notes and recording quality, this first release in the series can be warmly commended.’
-Jonathan Woolf Music Web International June 2013
…’the non-stop excellence of Stephanie McCallum’s playing.’
-Malcolm Hayes in BBC Music Magazine thumbnail reviews May 2013
‘La pianiste australienne, Stephanie McCallum est une disciple de Ronald Smith, un des grands ‘découvreurs’ d’Alkan. Elle a déjà enregistré les Études dans les tons Mineurs (ABC Classics) et possède une technique assez éprouvée pour déjouer les chausse-trappes de cette musique mais aussi toute la sensibilité pour en faire autre chose qu’un vain bavardage romantico-virtuose.’
-Jacques Bonnaure Classica Magazine, France 2013
McCallum is across every aspect of this music, exploring the collection’s diversity with apparent ease - from the flowing Mendelssohnian Assez vivement (Book 1) to the Chopinesque Vivante (Book 3) and all the various marches and character pieces in between. She is beautifully recorded (in the Sydney Conservatorium Hall).
-Phillip Scott in September 2013 Limelight Magazine.
"…Even in the fastest and most “grotesque” pieces, McCallum maintains a balanced approach, never ever rushing just to dazzle the listener with the sheer difficulty of the music (and Alkan is one of the most difficult of all piano composers to play), but rather always emphasizing the lyricism inherent in the music…
Lynn René Bayley. Fanfare. July-August. 2013
"The music of Alkan always brings delights. His whole output could be likened to a multifaceted jewel. Classical gestures, baroque purity and romantic excess are all melded into a magnificently bewildering whole. It would appear Australian pianist Stephanie McCallum is expertly equipped to explore this labyrinth…The Impromptu is a terrific flight of fantasy that surely only Alkan could have penned. McCallum exhibits fine virtuosity, not least in the somewhat Lisztian coda. A remarkable disc; one that I for one will not forget in a long while. The generous annotations are just as expert as the playing."
Colin Clarke. Fanfare. July-August. 2013
Alkan: Complete Recueils de Chants. Volume Two. Toccata Classics TOCC0158
…each of these “songs” has an inner logic and high degree of creativity that draws the listener inward, similar to the piano works of Schumann, in interesting and novel ways. Moreover, pianist McCallum invests each and every one of these pieces with remarkable variety and color, varying the rhythm in numerous subtle ways à la Chopin, which I found apropos to these scores. She understands the Romantic rubato style, and moreover does not overdo it. Neither does she overdo pedal effects, which always seem to be prominent features of some other interpretations of different music by Alkan. In short, I found her performances, and this music, to be a perfect match artistically. One could not ask more of her.
In McCallum’s skilled hands, moods emerge from this music and not just notes. Sometimes the mood is one of elation, at others wistful love, at still others it seems to be reminiscence tinged alternately with joy and melancholy. She does not sacrifice coherence of structure or momentum, yet she always seems to be focused on the meaning of the notes and not the notes themselves. As a result, one feels as if one is on a musical journey and not just listening to notes and phrases. As might be expected, the barcarolles and scherzos are the most innovative (read: unusual) music in this set, along with the Désir Fantaisie and the fascinating Chapeau bas! Seconda fantasticheria. A kinder, gentler Alkan, then? Yes, I suppose it is. In a way, much of this music put me in mind of the same composer’s 48 Esquisses. Well worth hearing.
-Lynn René Bayley in Fanfare May-June 2014
...the way in which Alkan draws the music toward his very personal sense of tone poetry is, as ever, both bewildering and bewitching. Fortunately there’s yet more in this volume. The Nocturnes (1859) offer a study in contrasts, with the breadth of the Andantino capped by a fast-moving second piece. The Petites Pièces once again derive their potency from their strongly contrasted natures: the first is outsize, playful, witty and the second tender and refined. Désir is a fantasy, brief, it’s true, but still full of lyric warmth. The deliciously named last piece is Chapeau bas! Seconda fantasticheria. Hats off, maybe, but the feel of this eight-minute fiesta of fun is dynamism and sheer elation.
Once again Stephanie McCallum is fully inside the music – the booklet notes are outstanding, by the way – and she deserves plaudits for her acutely perceptive dedication to the Alkan cause.
-Jonathan Woolf on Musicweb International March 2014
Given McCallum’s ability to navigate Alkan’s treacherous waters, I suspect that I will never need another recording of Alkan’s 30 Songs. Excellent recording quality is something I have come to expect from Toccata; and this release, done in 2012 at the Sydney Conservatory, is among the best. The exemplary booklet notes are by Peter McCallum, professor of musicology at Sydney, a classical music critic, and husband of the pianist. All I can ask is for her to keep going—there is a lot more Alkan.”
- © 2014 American Record Guide, Reviewer: James Harrington
Scenes from Childhood: Piano Music of Robert Schumann ABC Classics 476 3852 (2010)
"…McCallum is impressive in her nuanced playing of the Fantasie… Best known for her recordings of the eccentric composer Alkan, McCallum has all the technique she needs. I know some readers will revel in her romantic approach to this romantic music, especially in her grand sound."
Michael Ullman. Fanfare. July-August 2013
"…I find the pianist especially successful in the Fantasie, op. 17. From the virtuosic opening with its cascade of notes she shows herself to be in full command of the work. The beginning of the second movement sounds grand, even regal in McCallum’s hands. Perhaps most impressive is the way in which she expertly balances the various lines of music with ease. There is equally no sign of struggle with the horrendously difficult leaps in the closing pages of this movement. The finale is played with great attention to detail. Every effect is carefully worked out, yet never does it feel anything but spontaneous. Most importantly, she plays with great sincerity
…The Novellette, acting as a small encore here, brings the entire recital to a joyous conclusion. In McCallum’s hands it is as charming as the best of his works: virtuosic and quirky on one hand, lyrical and dreamy on the other. Throughout these recitals McCallum proves herself to be not just a technically secure guide, but also a musically thoughtful one as well. She has an extraordinary ability to characterize the music—each composer is approached differently and every piece inhabits its own particular sonic world. The sound on all of these recordings is a bit reverberant for my taste; I prefer a bit less resonance, a bit more clarity, but for the big moments in this music the chosen ambiance works. If one knows this pianist, then one will already be interested in these releases; if one doesn’t, then one owes oneself the pleasure of getting better acquainted with her."
Scott Noriega. Fanfare. July-August. 2013
"Australian pianist Stephanie McCallum is renowned for tackling the 19th-century virtuoso repertoire. Schumann presents an entirely different degree of difficulty. Though by no means easy to play, his music also demands a high level of empathy... Schumann, like Chopin, does not benefit from extra rubato or exaggerated dynamics. Judging from this recording, McCallum feels the same way. Her gradations of tone colour are subtly judged and discreet pauses in the music's progress are never underlined. Nothing is over-pointed."
PS. Limelight, March 2011.
“...Much more interesting is Stephanie McCallum’s new Schumann disc, Scenes from Childhood. All four works are previously unreleased. The great virtue McCallum brings is an absence of the usual foibles: sentimentality and over-interpretation. They are performances of no-frills honesty and a fresh view of the music....Child Falling Asleep is lovingly tender. The essential domestic intimacy of Schumann’s music comes out well in her playing. She surmounts the bravura power of Fantasie Op.17 well but warms more to its quieter, heartfelt episodes. In its Langsam third section she is exquisitely poetic. Papillons are right in her territory: she gives these dozen miniatures a delightful, easy vivacity, much colour and cheeky humour in the playful finale.”
Graham Strahle in The Australian Classical music reviews August 7, 2010.
“...Stephanie McCallum’s new ABC Classics release makes a strong bid to be the Schumann CD you choose out of the plethora out there, not only for her loving handling of the music’s various moods – hers is a straightforward and clear reading – but also for her thoughtful programming of other works to accompany this short ever-shifting work...The Fantasie, Schumann’s longest solo piano piece and perhaps his greatest...is a sweepingly passionate work in three movements...each have memorable melodies and McCallum navigates it all with flair and aplomb...one of Australia’s most talented pianists.”
Steve Moffatt in Mosman Daily and other publications.
Beethoven: Für Elise. Complete Bagatelles for piano. ABC Classics 476 6889 (2008)
"There is also good reason to welcome this recording by a gifted pianist who effortlessly brings out the whimsy and charm and occasional pathos of the Beethoven Bagatelles and other shorter piano works, many of which have been championed by Alfred Brendel. (In a still older recording, Schnabel recorded the op. 33 Bagatelles, and, in 1932, Für Elise.) I am not sure I would pick up this disc for the fragments, even the previously unrecorded fragment, found at the end of this disc, if what preceded those fragments weren’t so well played. McCallum is delightful even on the simpler pieces, such as the first Bagatelle of op. 119, which I and many other amateur pianists have played. She doesn’t inflate any of these pieces, nor does she inflict any eccentricities. She plays with zest and charm and respect. So there are good reasons, besides the inclusion of the fragmentary pieces, or the rarely heard complete sketches, to listen to McCallum’s Beethoven."
Michael Ullman. Fanfare. July-August 2013
Our picture of Beethoven the miniaturist has suddenly got bigger, thanks to Sydney musicologist Peter McCallum... Stephanie McCallum reveals them for what they no doubt were: little scraps from the workbench. While lacking the structural interest of the Op33, 119 and 126 Bagatelles (also on this recording), they point to Beethoven's increasing preoccupation with simplicity. Melody and texture are pared to a minimum all grandiosity has gone. McCallum's playing is amiable, unfussed and flowing, with a naturalness that seems at home with Beethoven's world of the miniature. At the same time, she draws out powerful interpretative depth where needed, particularly in the Op. 126 Bagatelles. A more interesting disc of Beethoven's piano music has not appeared in ages.
Graham Strahle. Weekend Australian. Oct 11, 2008.
Alkan: Douze études dans les tons mineurs [Twelve Etudes in the Minor Keys], Opus 39 [2 CD set]. ABC Classics 476 5335 (2006)
A superlative set of the complete Op. 39 études-unsurpassed pianism and enthusiasm ...RECORDING OF THE MONTH(March 2007) MusicWeb International
"First, we need to get the 'Guinness Book of World Records" aspect out of the way. With this recording Stephanie McCallum becomes the first person in the world to record the complete Alkan Études Opp. 35 and 39, having recorded the Op. 35 major-key études in 1995. Secondly, it must be said that all the descriptors usually applied to Alkan's music: virtuosic, formidable, super-human - could as easily be applied to Ms. McCallum's performances on these discs. Thirdly, like Liszt's Transcendental Études, the Alkan études can be listened to in part, but yield new emotional and structural values when listened to as a whole.... Her combination of pianism, enthusiasm and completeness cannot be topped."
William Kreindler, MusicWeb International, March 2007. Click here to read the full review.
‘Stephanie McCallum has once again proved herself as a pianist whose musical versatility and fearless virtuosity is matched only by her steely-fingered, powerful technique…This is coruscating pianism…There is never a sense of virtuosity for its own sake with McCallum’s playing. Her technique matches that required to make the music work which is in itself a phenomenal undertaking. The hurdles to be overcome and the risks to be taken are so immense that I suspect that is why many pianists don’t even attempt this repertoire.
This is a CD that no lover of piano music should ever be without.’– Mike Smith in 2MBS fineMUSIC magazine Jan.2006.
"This release is one of those that really deserves to be called by that hackneyed phrase - a landmark...McCallum walks into this repertoire in the company of giants like Hamelin and Smith and reveals herself at every turn their equal." - John Weretka in MCA Music Forum magazine. Aug-Oct, 2007.
...consummate pianism but also a penetrating, though never arid, academic understanding. Delicacy and clarity pervade the challenging fingerwork throughout, whilst the meatier material is always delivered with the utmost regard for tidiness; the heroics are borne with assured conviction, and yet their detail is always immaculate. McCallum shows that she understands how to point the often-convoluted harmonic structures, bringing out their inexorable logicality without sacrificing the overall surge of the music; most of all, pedalling is controlled to an exemplary level, never masking the texture nor serving to cover up the most formidable of challenges to technique...bravo bravissimo to McCallum for this fresh insight into these seminal pieces, and a five-star rating to this recording, which is supported by excellently-perceptive sleeve notes by Hugh Macdonald ... Get this recording now, and come to it with an open mind. Neglect it, and her, at your peril.
Alkan Society Bulletin no. 77 –December 2007
‘’…elle laisse toujours la musique s’épanouir, chanter, elle possède un talent étonnant pour relever un détail, un contrechant, sans jamais souffrir la ligne générale. Ce qui fait que même les pièces qui tournent plus facilement à l’exploit vide, telles Comme le Ventou l’Ouverture, sont ici gorgées de musique…Stephanie sait magistralement renouveler l’approche de cette fresque inégalée, ce qui prouve assez sa richesse – qui en doute encore? – et l’immense talent de l’interprète.”– Francois Luguenot. Bulletin de la Societe Alkan No.68 July 2006.
Liszt: from the Years of Pilgrimage. ABC Classics 476 124-8 (2003)
“...the soloist expertly harnesses the full power and range of Liszt’s keyboard with ardour and commitment. In the final work of the recital McCallum brings a marvellous sense of rhythm and phrasing together with brilliant and spirited playing in the Tarantella from Venezia e Napoli. ...A glowing Liszt recital expertly recorded. I will return to this release very soon.” Michael Cookson Musicweb International review May 2004
Click here to see the full review
"...much to marvel at in these lucid and sensitive compositions which drew their inspiration from his travels. This disc maintains the perfection we have come to expect from Stephanie McCallum's recordings."- Anthony CLARKE. The Bulletin. 21 January, 2004.
"...The centrepiece is the imposing After Reading Dante. Here McCallum plays with sensitivity and impressive velocity..."-Martin BALL The Weekend Australian. 17-18 January, 2004.
The Liszt Album. ABC Classics 472 763-2 (2003)
"It's only March but I'm ready to take a punt on The Liszt Album as recording of the year...The tremendous B minor sonata grips from the first. McCallum gives such a strong sense of knowing the vicissitudes of the journey ahead that one surrenders gratefully..."-Deborah JONES. The Weekend Australian. 22-23 March, 2003.
"This recording includes one of the most ambitious solo works of the 19th century, the Liszt Sonata in B minor, S178. Australian pianist Stephanie McCallum plays the piece without recourse to overblown dramatics, but with particularly finely judged tempo fluctuations. This is, at heart, a reflective account, yet the tempos are anything but slow. Rather, McCallum magically delays all those moments of transition, lingering there examining their beauty, before launching into another passage of bravura pianism. This performance gets better on each hearing..."-Andrew FORD. 24 Hours magazine. June, 2003.
"...Stephanie McCallum is one of Australia's foremost pianists, and this disc continues the thread of ravishing beauty heard on her last ABC album of French music, Perfume..."-Anthony CLARKE. The Bulletin, 13 May, 2003
Perfume- the exquisite piano music of France. ABC Classics 461 798-2 (2001)
"...Stephanie McCallum is a rarity amongst musicians. Relishing in contrapuntal complexities and tonal colour...she brings distinction to everything she touches....a kaleidoscopic recital full of diversity in terms of instrumental colour, technique and style...Perfume showcases one of Australia's finest pianists..." -Brett ALLEN-BAYES. DB magazine (Adelaide) 2001.
"...outstanding recording...Stephanie McCallum's pianism is imbued with poetic suggestion,eloquent rhythms, luminous sonorities, wit and intelligence..."
-Sarah GRUNSTEIN. MCA Music Forum August/September 2001.
"...eloquent music played with grace and elegance, and not a trace ofsentimentality..."-Deborah JONES. The Weekend Australian. 5-6 May, 2001.
Weber: The Complete Piano Sonatas and Other Works [2 CD set]. ABC Classics 462 763-2 (1998)
"Stephanie McCallum plays them with immense technical brilliance, great sensitivity to their potential for varied colour (and touch) and unflagging spirit ... the lightning speeds of the final movements of No. 1 in C (Weber called L'infatigable) and No. 4 in E minor (La Tarantella) leaves the listener breathless (though not this pianist!).-John CARMODY Sun Herald 31 March, 1999
"... a stunning release ... in every sense a triumph ... an extraordinary demonstration of Romantic pianism ... The implicit message of this recording is that here is the music of an underrated and misunderstood genius. After hearing McCallum's sympathetic, unashamedly Romantic interpretation of the generous selection, it's hard not to agree." -Martin BUZACOTT 24 Hours May 1999
Alkan and Magnard. Tall Poppies - TP 081 (1996)
"It would be hard to imagine anyone doing better justice to this music than Ms McCallum. She is a big-boned player with a cracker-jack technique and a penetrating intelligence. She plays with a gripping intensity that won't quit, but she also knows where to let the music breathe." -American Record Guide July 1998
"I found myself spellbound -- it's not too strong an expression -- by this music, disappointed when it stopped and moved by its eloquence." -AndrewFORD 24 Hours September 1996
Alkan, Twelve Studies in all the Major Keys, Opus 35. Tall Poppies - TP 055 (1994)
"... a formidable and insightful pianist, who gives us a very good idea of what the music is all about, ie. transcendental technique at the service of ecstatic yet utterly disciplined vision. ... Vibrant splendour that seems to presage Rachmaninov, Scriabin and late Faure in a single transcendent amalgam. Music like this, as well served as this, should be self-recommending." -Calum MacDONALD London Hi-Fi News and Record Review April 1995
"Rarely do I find a record so irresistible that I listen to it over and over ... This is such a record ... I can't imagine a lover of romantic piano music not going for this. Stephanie McCallum is a thoroughly convincing champion of this music ... Not only are her fingers up to the quite formidable technical task, but she has the right temperament. Her playing has real character and elan." - American Hi Fi May/June 1995
"McCallum has a formidable pianistic armoury ... a most impressive recital."
--Jeremy NICHOLAS Classic CD London, September 1995
"Le pianiste australienne interprète ces études avec un feu, un enthousiasme et un sen du cantabile ... L'Allegro barbaro est le plus sauvage de la discographie..Quelle fête du piano et quel style juste!" -François LUGUENOT Bulletin de la SociétéAlkan No. 29
Notations. Tall Poppies - TP 037 (1994)
"McCallum is an incredible advocate. Her transparency and dynamic energy fit the idiom of this music like a glove and the sound is impeccable." -American Hi Fi May/June 1995
"... always characterised by brilliant, steely finger technique and an unswerving and intelligent dedication to the music ... Anyone who plays Alkan and Xenakis with equal mastery deserves all the accolades we can throw her way. Brava!" - AndrewFORD 24 Hours September 1996
Alkan's Concerto for Solo Piano. Chants Opus 70 [first recording of the Chants] 2MBS - MBS 24CD (1992)
"... a remarkable performance. There can't be many pianists who can play this diabolically difficult music as well as Stephanie McCallum. She negotiates, projects, and shapes the concerto, especially its fabulous first movement (twenty-eight minutes), into a thrilling experience ... an outstanding rendition of a work as overwhelming as any piano music ever written. Over and over this pianist brings out details which make it more amazing than ever, while her total approach is convincing throughout the 121 pages and nearly fifty minutes of this unique, utterly stupefying music." -Paul RAPOPORT Fanfare. USA. November 1992 .
"The quality of McCallum's playing and her effective transmission of music to which she has a passionate allegiance make this disc noteworthy in any company." -Roger COVELL Sydney Morning Herald 8 September 1992
REVIEWS of Live Concerts
'In direct contrast, eminent pianist Stephanie McCallum plumbed the very depths of UKARIA’s Bosendorfer in visceral performances of Sculthorpe and Satie. Often seen as delicate lightweight works, Sculthorpe’s five Night Pieces and Satie’s six Gnossiennes were strongly etched in deeply personal statements that elevated them to an almost rhetorical level.' Adelaide Festival Ukaria chamber series. The Advertiser March 7, 2021 Rodney Smith
"Finishing this second-last concert was Stephanie McCallum, with Beethoven’s Op 53 (1803), nicknamed “Waldstein”. McCallum’s performance of this work, written early in Beethoven’s so-called “heroic” decade, quite simply was incredible. Without any doubt it was the most outstanding performance of the entire cycle of the 32 sonatas presented during the Festival. McCallum’s playing style is so fluid her hands seem to float across the keyboard. She can deliver sounds so soft there’re almost inaudible, and yet she is able to summon up the most assertive expression and phrasing, never overdoing it and always remaining true to the emotion of the piece. McCallum was brilliant in every aspect of her performance of this work and drew a standing ovation, without doubt the most deserving of all those given during the cycle."-Canberra International Music Festival “Beethoven – A Piano for Life”, VI & VII, Fitters’ Workshop, May 3, 2015. Reviewed by Clinton White in City News
"Across these three concerts there were three stand-out performances...Stephanie McCallum, playing Op 10 No 2 (1798) showed consummate technique, dynamic control and a reading that fitted the piece perfectly to its time in the early part of Beethoven’s compositional career, influenced as it was by Mozart and Haydn.-Beethoven – “A Piano for Life” III-V, The Canberra International Music Festival At the Fitters’ Workshop, May 2, 2015. Reviewed by Clinton White in City News
“If there were a piano section in the Commonwealth games, Stephanie McCallum would win hands down….she performed from memory what is certainly one of the most demanding works for solo piano:Charles-Valentin Alkan’s Concerto for solo piano. It is the supreme work of Romantic virtuosity by this cult composer…McCallum’s prodigious technique and musicianship were awe-inspiring as she took on a task that would push almost any other pianist to the outermost limits of possibility.”– Stephen WHITTINGTON. Adelaide Advertiser. 13 March, 2006.
“…truly beautiful and exacting performances of Liszt…the attention to technical details throughout this generous and exacting recital were spellbinding…I suggest that McCallum is the Alkan pianist of our age.”– Brett ALLEN-BAYES. DB Magazine. March/April 2006.
“…Hers was a titanic performance from memory (57 minutes), full of contrasts in every way, totally mesmerising.”- Fred BLANKS. North Shore Times. 21 Oct.2005.
“… McCallum’s playing strongly projected the drama of the first and third movements [Mozart Piano Concerto in C min. K.491], while the central Romance was a beautifully lyrical interlude…a performance to savour with delight.”-W.L. HOFFMANN. Canberra Times 11 April, 2005.
"...Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat received a fine performance from Sydney-based pianist Stephanie McCallum, who made the often too familiar language of Mozart sound quite new...McCallum was an inspired choice of soloist, bringing an intense, almost cerebral feel to the work. Her cadenzas displayed suitable flair and technical mastery but the good stuff was in the detail: the interplay between soloist and orchestra [Sydney Symphony Orchestra] and a delicate touch which made the piano sing like a rare bird."- Harriet CUNNINGHAM. Sydney Morning Herald. 11 February,2002.
"...McCallum is an intelligent and passionate performer, whose thoughtful interpretation of the last sonata, Op.111, was one of the highlights of the series [Festival of Sydney, Complete Beethoven Sonatas]...(she) brought an innate understanding of the music's structure to works whose emotional power remains undiminished two centuries on."-Hilary SHRUBB The Australian. 22 January, 2001.
"...McCallum was well up to these extreme demands. Her playing was characterised by attack, strength and admirable, even astonishing dexterity...such was the richness of the grouping of these four sonatas and her command of each, that the Appassionata, so familiar and so highly vaunted, emerged as a triumph in itself, but not over its fellows on this profoundly satisfying program."-Peter MORRISON. Australian Jewish News. 9 February, 2001.
"... One expects technical brilliance from Alpha, but the expressive content depends much more on the repertoire. In this concert the emotion crept up on me unexpectedly through the maze of notes, and blew me away, particularly in the two solo piano works, Andriessen's almost impressionistic Image de Moreau and Rihm's wonderfully inarticulate Dialogues, played with quiet determination by Stephanie McCallum"-Harriet CUNNINGHAM. Sydney Morning Herald. 20 June, 2000.
"There could hardly be a more exultant way to conclude this week's review than with the recollection of Stephanie McCallum's Art Gallery recital of Weber, Debussy and Wagner...McCallum's virtuosic and pulsating performance (on a Stuart piano) of [Weber's] second sonata... to hear McCallum conquer Liszt's arrangement of the Tannhauser Overture was a stupendous experience: the treble clarity of the violins' figuration in the original, the richness that this Australian piano allowed her to impart to the phrases intended for winds and brass, the sheer pyrotechnics of it all!"-John CARMODY. Sun Herald. 24 January, 1999.
"... a revelation. A stunning account of [Alkan's] Allegro Barbaro, a study in octaves from opus 35 was reminiscent of Horowitz on a good day." -West Australian. 11 August, 1998.
"I went principally to hear the brilliant Sydney pianist, Stephanie McCallum, who played Weber's Concert Piece in F minor with them and was extremely pleased with my decision. She raced up and down the keyboard dazzlingly and in the more reflective moments showed a superb technical and expressive independence of left and right hand....She's another great Australian musician whose insufficient renown in her own country is out of proportion with her abilities." - Sun Herald. 11 August, 1996.
"Her playing of this exciting work [Alkan's Concerto for Piano Solo] ... is one of the glories of Australian pianism." -Sydney Morning Herald 29 January, 1988.
"... A gifted artist ... Boldly beginning with a refined yet well coloured reading of Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales, she went on to tackle Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata headlong, emphasising its quirkiness as well as its sheer driving power with admirable clarity, weight and thoughtfulness ... Saint-Saens' Toccata, opus 111 No 6 concluded an impressive debut with Miss McCallum's playing all colour and brilliant light." -Stephen PETTITT. The Times, London.
"... Her whole programme was bold and fresh ... Her special strengths are her clean, muscular technique and her confident grasp of extended musical wholes. Her Weber had an apt dramatic flair ... The Moto Perpetuo was exhilaratingly speedy and sure. She sounded utterly sympathetic in Butterley's Uttering Joyous Leaves ... Her Alkan set amounted to a `tour de force´ ... a sense of rounded purpose informed all of it. In her immensely capable hands both the outer etudes made great impressions ... Alkan's pianism was madly professional and intricate (no lover of the Romantic piano should be unfamiliar with it, for it carries a certain ideal of the instrument to a magnificent extreme)."
-David MURRAY. Financial Times, London.
"No review of recent events would be complete without mention of Stephanie McCallum's gargantuan undertaking at the Wigmore Hall on 6th December ... she tackled Alkan's mammoth Three Etudes, Op. 76 for the right and left hands separately and for both hands reunited ... for Miss McCallum the ascent to such austere pinnacles of the virtuoso repertoire is an engrossing wonderfully worthwhile task." -Bryce MORRISON. Music and Musicians, London.