Theme and Deviations – the piano music of Sonny Chua

SONNY CHUA (piano)
MOVE MD 3230
TPT: 01:11:20

reviewed by Neville Cohn 

Theme and Deviations features the music of Sonny Chua, performed by the composer who was born in Penang, Malaysia but now lives in Melbourne. Much of this delightful recital consists of short pieces, some less than half a minute long and many of which are irreverently tongue-in-cheek. Some of a 15-track bracket, called “assorted fairies”, have a zany, madcap quality – “twinkling fairy”, played high in the treble register, has a tinkling, musical box feel to it; “funky fairy” is a quirky miniature with its off-beat accents – and “cuckoo fairy” is instantly identified by that unfortunate bird’s characteristic call. “red hot rhapsodies” is memorable for its “Jamaican Fumble”, a little toccata in tricky 5/8 time.


The title work – “Theme and Deviations” – is a hoot with its allusions to Bizet’s Carmen, Arthur Benjamin’s Jamaican Rhumba and honky tonk a la Scott Joplin. I liked, too, Rodeo, a high-octane, cheerfully noisy romp. And Yo ho ho is a robust, very jolly jig. But it’s not all fun and games. Vision, with its peremptory chords, has a dark, sombre quality – and the “Preludio” of the Sonatina has solid, striding chords that give way to toccata-like measures to which the “Intermezzo” is an introspective foil; it leads into the rapidity and insouciance of the concluding “Rondo”.


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