Friday night playlist, 20th/21st century piano music edition

I am currently teaching a composition seminar on piano music, and have been or soon will be spending time with these discs:

Multiplicities: ’38Blair McMillen, with Sachiko Kato. Corigliano (his Chiaroscuro for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart); Joan Tower, Frederic Rzewski, Charles Wuorinen, John Harbison, William Bolcom. An attractive program; important composers, but pieces that are not so well known.

Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-JésusPierre-Laurent Aimard. It won’t make me forget Peter Serkin, but this is one amazing recording.

Tristan Murail: Complete Piano Music Marilyn Nonken. A retrospective of this (post-)spectralist composer, encompassing music from 1967 to 2003.

David Rakowski: Etudes, Vol. 1, 2, 3Amy Briggs. Endless compositional inventiveness; passionate, grooving pianism.

Morton Feldman: Triadic Memories – Marilyn Nonken. Get the DVD version, with footage of Marilyn discussing the piece, and a performance (audio only) uninterrupted by the need to change discs.

John Adams: Road Movies – includes pianists Nicholas Hodges and Rolf Hind playing the solo and duo pieces, plus John Novacek and violinist Leila Josefowicz in the title piece.

Powerhouse Pianists – Blair McMillen plays Biscardi, Hyla, Moe, and Gosfield; Stephen Gosling plays Tsontakis, Townsend, Nancarrow, Tower, Rakowski, and Zupko.

Roger Sessions: Sonatas # 1 and 3; Ralph Shapey: Mutations, Mutations II, 21 Variations – David Holzman. Dauntless advocate for big modernist masterpieces (Wolpe’s Battle Piece; Martino’s Fantasies and Impromptus, Pianississimo) Holzman is back for more with the Sessions Third Sonata, and Shapey’s 21 Variations, plus smaller works.

Boulez: Third Sonata; Wuorinen: Second Sonata – Jeffrey Swann. One of my favorite Wuorinen pieces – scintillating piano writing, intriguing formal scheme. Quite a bit more interesting than that other, more famous piece on the disc.

New Waltzes for Piano – Eric Moe. Dammit, it isn’t fair that Eric should be such a fine composer, and such a fine pianist. Here he revisits pieces that were written for a C.F. Peters anthology of waltzes from a few decades ago, with some recent pieces added as well. Music by Biggs, Peterson, Helps, Imbrie, Moe, Karchin, Wuorinen, Tower, Euba, Caltabiano, Krauze, Sessions, Gordon, Kohn, Glass, Hyla, Babbitt, Zahab, Harrison, Rosenblum, Thomson, and Cornicello.

William Duckworth: The Time Curve Preludes – Neely Bruce. Minimalist miniatures – post-minimalism, really. Two recordings are available; Neely Bruce gets a hard sound that sometimes sounds more like a plucked instrument than a piano; Bruce Brubaker plays more “beautifully”, but I prefer the crisp directness of Neely’s reading.

In older repertoire: Murray Perahia’s Bartok recordings are available on one CD; Nonesuch has reissued Paul Jacob’s Debussy recordings, including the Etudes, Images, and maybe the Preludes (is this the same as this?); my favorite Concord Sonata is Gilbert Kalish’s, again a Nonesuch reissue.

(This marks a new personal best in number of links in a single post.)

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