Chie Sato Roden’s career as a pianist emerged when Bernard Holland reviewed her New York debut recital of contemporary Japanese piano pieces with these stirring words: “Miss Roden played as if she cherished every note of this music. Her technique – especially her control of dynamics – was impressive” The New York Times September 20, 1981.
Since then, she has given numerous concerts in the US, UK, Canada, Italy, Russia, Norway, France, Germany and Japan, featuring contemporary compositions from both Japanese and American composers. During this time, she introduced more than 50 Japanese pieces (most of them premiers) to American and European audiences.
Illustrative of this effort was her recital, “An Afternoon of Japanese and American Piano Music,” at Weill Recital Hall in October of 1993, for which Allan Kozinn of the NY Times described Roden as “an energetic, compelling advocate for her trans-Pacific repertory.” Selections for this recital were also performed for the “Around New York” show at WNYC; and the entire program was repeated in the fall of l994 at Tokyo’s Bario Hall.
For the 25th anniversary celebration of her principal piano teacher, Prof. Samuel Dilworth-Leslie at Rutgers University, she performed an American piece, “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues” from the North American Ballads by Frederic Rzewski. About this performance, Peter Spencer wrote: “Another victory of line over incoherence came from one of Dilworth-Leslie’s former students, Chie Sato Roden. In her reading…,she displayed the interpretive skills of her teacher. The work begins with highly mechanized abstraction, repeated drumming dissonances on the piano’s lowest notes to represent, no doubt, the infernal machines the composer wishes to evoke…..But even when she was whacking the keyboard with her elbow Roden gave the impression that more was to come, and it came, mutating into a demented eight-to-the- bar jazz pattern that flowered into Gershwinesque sevenths and then a delightful hillbilly-blues section before vanishing into the same kind of mechanistic dissonance that opened the work, but this time more softly and on the very top keys.” The Star-Ledger March 24, 1994.
In the summer of l998, Roden was selected as a winner, with special distinction for the performance of contemporary music, by the IBLA International Piano Competition in Ragusa, Italy.
Roden’s unique approach to contemporary music was praised by many critics. Yuji Numata writes, “This is the first time that I have had an opportunity to hear Roden play in person. To my surprise, she was somewhat different from a typical ‘contemporary pianist.’ Many contemporary pianists are characterized by their sharp, crispy sound produced by a combination of shallow pedaling, exaggerated crescendo and decrescendo, and other techniques. In contrast, Roden places the core of all sound at the lower end of the centroid. Thus the first impression I had from listening to her playing is that the contour of the music flow was somewhat blurred….However, as the program progressed I cannot deny starting to like her style, which is completely opposite from the usual style of playing contemporary pieces. Most often pianists who specialize in contemporary music play every work in the same manner; expeditiously and speedily. Against the backdrop of this usual practice, her performance conveyed an unusual freshness. While I realize that my own view may be controversial, I believe that Roden’s performance, as a whole, pushes contemporary music beyond the confines of a restricted genre. Moreover, in her performance, she resists all temptations for unnecessary showmanship or false pretense. That made the performance especially refreshing. She also played every piece (including the premiers) from memory. Of course memorization itself does not have any value. But this fact clearly reveals her stance as a performer.” Ex Musica, the fall issue, 2000.
In addition to her solo performance career, Roden has started a collaboration with the Italian pianist, Salvatore Moltisanti. Along with an assortment of contemporary solo works, the recitals with Moltisanti have featured performances of George Crumb’s piano four-hand masterpiece, “Makrokosmos IV.” A performance of the latter piece at the Opera City Recital Hall in Tokyo on May 30, 2000, drew these words of praise from the music critic Kyoko Michishita, “The superb performance by these two pianists was simply unforgettable.” On May 11th, 2002 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Moltisanti and Roden performed both Makrokosmos 1 and IV.” For this occasion, the New York Times music critic, Anne Midgette, wrote enthusiastically about Roden’s “firm, clear, open approach” and Moltisanti’s “soft touch and bearing of a romantic virtuoso.” In Midgette’s view “the pairing worked well,” and she was particularly moved when one young member of the audience, “caught up in the moment, leapt to his feet with a look of pure delight.”
On May 28th 2003 Moltisanti and Roden again gave a joint recital, each played some pieces from Olivier Messian’s “Vingt Regards Sur L’Enfant-Jesus.” Roden’s performance of a piece from from this monumental work impressed Giovanni Pasqual in a concert organized by the Lyceum of Catania, Italy. “In conclusione è intervenuta anche la pianista Chie Sato Roden, anch’essa distiGntasi all’Ibla Grand Prize eseguendo con squisita eleganza e magistrale grazia fonica e timbrica il pezzo Bacio per il bambin Gesù dai Venti sguardi sul Bambin Gesù di Oliver Messiaen.” Nuovo Abruzzo Press, March 24, 2004.
Roden has recorded two compact discs: Charles Ives’ “Concord Sonata” (l988) and “Selected Piano Works by Contemporary Japanese Composers” (l989) for ALM Records in Japan.
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