Spring 2020: Recordings
Tan, a longtime friend and collaborator of George Crumb, introduces Book 1 of Crumb's first large-scale work since his monumental Makrokosmos, composed forty years ago. Based on paintings by a variety of twentieth-century artists, these ten works translate visual art into sound with Crumb's signature extended effects and musical quotations. "Wheatfield with Crows" (van Gogh) unsettles the listener, with Tan cawing convincingly like a crow. "Clowns at Night" (Chagall) is a disturbing painting, as pale masks and shadowy faces emerge out of a misty background. Tan's groaning, over her toy piano, recreates that ghostliness. "The Persistence of Memory" (Dali) haunts with wisps of Mozart, Beethoven, and even "Amazing Grace," interrupted by jagged dissonance. The program concludes with Five Pieces for Piano, an early work featuring a variety of effects on the piano strings, including a paper clip applied to a bass string.—Sang Woo Kang
Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi's recent recordings focus on the mature masterpieces of Franz Schubert. Written during the last year of the composer's life, the three sonatas on this album reveal the composer's full spectrum of emotional expression. Piemontesi offers sensitive, passionate, and thoughtful interpretations. Whether it is an intimate inner voice, a ponderous low-register trill, the invocation of an elegant Viennese waltz, or frenetic improvisatory passagework, all are in perfect control under his hands. His timing and rubato in the sorrowful slow movements are natural, and never fall into the trap of losing the underlying flow by being too relaxed, and the scherzos that follow bring droplets of hope despite the previous moments of despair. Piemontesi demonstrates concentration and stamina from the first note to the last, leaving the listener in awe. He proves himself to be a keen interpreter of Schubert's music.—Wei Chen (Bruce) Lin
Connected through geography and culture, both the composer and pianist on this recording were born in the North German town of Uelzen, and later settled in Norway. The album brings three of Friedrich Kuhlau's (1786–1832) well-constructed, enchanting, and expressive solo piano works into Lühr's artistic hands. Beginning with two splendid sonatas and ending with Kuhlau's most famous sonatina, his playing provides a compelling argument that the composer's weightier and more advanced piano music is worthy of greater attention. While the charming sonatinas are indispensable for intermediate students, these large- scale sonatas should no longer be ignored by more advanced pianists. Listeners will hear that they showcase a mature Danish Golden Age composer who is capable of thoughtfully weaving an array of beautiful themes and infectious ideas into dramatic, virtuosic forms. Of special significance is the engrossing Piano Sonata in A Minor, Op. 8a (1813). The liner notes indicate that this is the first professional recording of this fine work.—Thomas Swenson
This delightful and refreshing album features music composed—and performed—by the talented and precocious young British pianist Alma Deutscher. Each piece draws its source from a book of melodies written down during the last eleven years of her life, progressing from For Antonia (age four), and ending with Siren Sounds Waltz (age fourteen). Up in the Sky, When the Day Falls into Darkness, and The Star of Hope are beautiful solo piano transcriptions from her opera Cinderella. The Sixty Minutes Polka is an energetic and catchy work born from improvisations she played for the crew of the eponymous TV show when they interviewed her at age twelve.IThinkofYouisafavorite,withitssurprisingharmonic turns, more developed inner lines, and tender, melancholy melody set to Goethe's poem "Ich denke dein." Throughout, Deutscher's playing is sincere, and her tone is beautiful in this very satisfying recording.—Nicholas Phillips
Presenting the music of composers from Brazil, Cuba, and the United States with whom she has had direct, personal contact, pianist Roberta Rust's artistry stretches across the Americas and bridges many sonic worlds. Written between 1939 and 2008, the works on this album were spun from blues, jazz, popular music, Cuban music and art, improvisations, astronomy, and American songs. Rust showcases her own versatility and depth in her bluesy drawl (Rochberg's Blues), jazzy lyricism (Anderson's Thirteen Plus 4), dry and crisp touch (Brouwer's Choco), virtuosic runs (Prado's Halley), playful declamations (Sharpley's Doodle), and musical introspection (Zwilich's Lament). This valuable catalog of compositions spans seven decades, and follows Rust's career over the last thirty-three years. The program notes detail how she met or interacted with the composers, and where she premiered their pieces, guiding the listener on many journeys for which they can be grateful. —Charisse Baldoria
British pianist Imogen Cooper's latest album is inspired by her love for the Basque Country that surrounds the French and Spanish border. Mompou, Albéniz, and Ravel are all from there, and the selections present a colorful amalga- mation of the music inspired by the exoticism of this region. Debussy's L'isle joyeuse is the only outlier, but Cooper includes it because of the piece's sense of escape. As one expects, the album is replete with well-known Spanish dances such as the Habañera, Malagueña, and Pavane, guitar-inspired textures, and references to the famous Andalusia region. Cooper's playing is even and dexterous throughout, from the virtuosic "Alborada del gracioso" (from Miroirs) and pieces from Iberia, to the miniatures by de Falla and Mompou. In the beautiful Canción y Danza Nos. 1 and 6 by Mompou one is rewarded with her particularly exquisite voicing, and soulful, singingmelodies.—Choong-ha Nam
THIS ISSUE'S CONTRIBUTORS:
NICHOLAS PHILLIPS Recordings Editor for the Piano Magazine and Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. He has performed in solo recitals across the United States and abroad, is an active recording artist, and is a regular presenter at national and international conferences.
CHARISSE BALDORIA is a pianist who explores the piano's role in intercultural exchange. She has performed on five continents and is currently Associate Professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
SANG WOO KANG performs and teaches throughout Asia and the United States as a soloist and chamber musician. Currently he serves as Professor of Piano in the Department of Music at Providence College, and is on the music faculty at Brown University.
WEI CHEN (BRUCE) LIN is Assistant Professor of Piano at Texas Lutheran University. He has performed and adjudicated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Taiwan. Recently, he made his debut with the American Wind Symphony Orchestra.
CHOONG-HA NAM is Professor of Piano at West Texas A&M University, and has performed and presented extensively in the United States. She wrote her dissertation on the music and compositional technique of George Perle.
THOMAS SWENSON is in demand as a teacher, clinician, presenter, author, and adjudicator in the southeast United States. An MTNA Foundation Fellow, he recently served as President of the North Carolina Music Teachers Association.