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Autumn 2021: First Looks: Recordings


The depth of programming and playing in DuHamel's latest album, which introduces newly commissioned works inspired by Johannes Brahms' oeuvre, is striking. Casual listeners will enjoy snippets of his most beloved melodies, while astute connoisseurs will be delighted by the clever transformation and integration of his themes throughout. The Brahmsian games and tricks will tickle your intellectual fancy while the music stirs your senses. The album opens with its boldest and most dissonant musical statement in Edie Hill's Rückblick. The lush harmonies of Jocelyn Hagen's Variations on a Theme by Brahms, the emotional centerpiece of the album, showcase DuHamel's range of sound and full melodic tone. Comic relief arrives in the form of Marc Chan's Dr. Brahms's Book of Rags. Reminiscent of William Bolcom's style, the rags are easy listening, if somewhat redundant. Chan's Playing Brahms is a virtuosic closer, showcasing DuHamel's clear voicing and vibrant sense of color. —Sarah Rushing 


The music of pioneering African-American composer Florence Price (1887–1953) has very deservedly been enjoying a resurgence of popularity. This instantly historic recording by Price scholar Samantha Ege includes premiere recordings of several works that were discovered in the composer's summer home. Four pieces entitled Fantasie Nègre provide the framework for this program. Fantasie No. 1's rhapsodic late-romantic opening is followed by pentatonic melodic material emanating from a Negro Spiritual, along with a wealth of textural and harmonic invention, and many well-wrought virtuoso flourishes. Fantasies Nos. 2, 3, and 4, are similarly inventive and powerful. No. 3 had to be reconstructed by Ege; the result is a whole, vivid piece that one would have never imagined needed to be pieced together posthumously. The CD also includes several engaging miniatures, including three very impressionistic Snapshots. Ege's playing beautifully conveys the wealth of colors, virtuoso elements, and gestural contours of Price's music. —Geoffrey Burleson

MOZART PIANO CONCERTOS, VOL. 2: Anne-Marie McDermott, piano, Odense Symfoniorkester conducted by Kenneth Montgomery, Gilbert Varga, and Andreas Delfs 

Anne-Marie McDermott and the Odense Symfoniorkester of Denmark bring a joyous presentation of three Mozart concerti. The 1784 D Major Concerto, K. 451, opens the program with energy and gusto. Trumpet and timpani contribute to the excitement. Especially delightful is the rendering of the third movement's shift from duple to triple meter, infusing the listener with the spirit of dance. Written only one week prior, the B-flat Major Concerto, K. 450, offers at the heart of this recording the rich E-flat Major second movement performed with warmth and elegance. K. 450 is often noted for its change in style to the more complex and difficult, and McDermott tosses off the virtuosic and rollicking third movement with aplomb. The disc closes with Mozart's first original concerto, the 1773 D Major, K. 175, returning us to another sparkling collaboration sure to delight. —Elizabeth Moak

AN AMERICAN MOSAIC: Simone Dinnerstein, piano

This commissioned work—a fifteen-movement cycle of music borne from the pandemic year in the USA—portrays a wide range of evocative vignettes that tribute caretakers and research physicians, parents and children, rabbis and ministers, doctors and interns, teachers and students. The movements span a variety of dynamic textures and feature nimble technical and characteristic temperaments. Four Consolations interspersed throughout frame yet another piece, with the first introducing the single melodic theme as a prologue for the collection, thereafter developed as a variation, fugue, and chorale in the subsequent returns. Depth of resonance and tonal spectrum capture Dinnerstein's pianistic expressiveness. Additionally, the performance is imbued with an eloquent direction of musical phrase and time that draws in the listener. This is particularly evident in three transcriptions from J.S. Bach's St. Matthews Passion and B Minor Mass, which pay artistic homage to the pianist, and musically encapsulate the rich tonal color of the collection. —Yeeseon Kwon


By juxtaposing two large-scale Schumann works, Faliks demonstrates the stylistic and character differences between the two composers very clearly, while espousing a lyrical reading of both works. Clara's Piano Sonata in G Minor is characterized by Faliks' sweetness of sound and elegance of temperament. She achieves a remarkable legato in lyrical passages, and a consistently warm and generous sound, even in energetic sections. By contrast, her approach to Robert's Symphonic Etudes is just that—symphonic; she coaxes a tremendous range of color and articulation from the instrument, giving each etude a specific sound world to inhabit, from the most playful to the most furious. Especially impressive is the handling of the notorious Etude IV, in which she shapes each arpeggiation very subtly in accordance with the harmonic progression and shape of each phrase. The finale showcases the dynamic power of the instrument, and Faliks produces a massive sound while retaining its fundamental warmth, giving a true sense of joy to the end of the journey. —Scott Cuellar


GEOFFREY BURLESON is on the piano faculty of Princeton University, and is Professor/Director of Piano Studies at Hunter College-CUNY. He is currently recording the complete solo
piano works of Saint-Saëns for Naxos Grand Piano.

SCOTT CUELLAR received the gold medal at the San Antonio International Piano Competition. He holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the Juilliard School, and Rice University.
He now teaches at Oberlin Conservatory.

YEESEON KWON is Associate Professor at Roosevelt University, where she teaches piano musicianship and piano pedagogy. She has authored and edited numerous publications, and is currently president of the Illinois State Music Teachers Association.

ELIZABETH MOAK is a pianist and recording artist who performs as soloist throughout North and South America, Asia, and Europe. An Associate Professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, Moak studied at Peabody Conservatory with Fleisher, Martin, and Schein.

SARAH RUSHING is Assistant Professor of Piano at West Texas A&M University. She enjoys playing music off the beaten path.
Her research focuses on the piano works of Debussy and Brahms.

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