RECORDINGS

FIVE PRELUDES FOR PIANO

  1. “Winter” in E Minor
  2. ”for Kindy“ in G Major
  3. “for Janet” in A Major
  4. “Yonker Hill” in F sharp Major
  5. ”Yeats’ Drinking song“ in D Major

THE SEASONS

  1. I. Spring
  2. II. Summer
  3. III. Fall
  4. IV. Winter

SONATINE FOR CLARINET AND PIANO IN D MAJOR

  1. I. Moderately Fast
  2. II. Expressively and Peacefully
  3. III. Quickly with Excitement

CHILDREN’S DANCE SUITE

  1. “First Bone Dance,” Allemande for Joshie
  2. “Second Bone Dance,” Courante for Seth
  3. “The Dinosaur Lullaby,” Sarabande for Abram
  4. “The Gentleman’s Jig,” Gigue for Jonathan
  5. “The Dancers’ Dance,” Minuet for Addie
  6. “The Ladybug Pavane,” Pavane for Anna
  7. “The Elderberry Waltz,” Waltz for “Wessika”
  8. “The Possum Trot,” Little Trot for “Gagie-Boy”

I FIRST HEARD François Couperin’s (1668–1733) Les Barricades Mystérieuses during a late-night drive on Route 23 from Columbus to Gallipolis, Ohio. It came over the radio of my little Volkswagen, and, as I drove, the music and the magic of the night—coupled with passing shadow landscapes and the movement of my car—seduced me completely. Les Barricades Mystérieuses is immediately appealing. Its steady rhythm is comforting, and it has a sweet, sequential melodic movement. It’s one pearl among many in a multi-volume collection that Couperin called Ordres. The piece is a lesson in fourth species counterpoint; chains of layered suspensions unfold an elegant, horizontal texture realized in old-style rondeau form, and shape a melody rich in the delicious contrasts of consonance and dissonance. Some scholars suggest the cryptic title is a double entendre referring both to the overlapping musical suspensions as well as to anatomical features that supposedly characterize a woman’s virginity. Whatever the case, it’s an alluring piece and a joy to play.
Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770–1827) did not intend his Sonata in C Sharp Minor to be known as The Moonlight. That title was an affectation added by Beethoven’s publisher to boost sales, but it has persisted. It’s challenging for a pianist to bring something new to such celebrated and oft-recorded music, but I love this work and wanted to play it anyway. I tried to offer something of my own aesthetic in interpreting this well-worn but magnificent music.
At the monthly reminder of his valet, Piotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) tossed off a new “Season” for his Opus 37a, The Seasons — a project cooked up by his publisher, which consists of twelve characteristic piano pieces, one for each month of the year. The Seasons are not played often and their neglect is unmerited. The weakest among them are well made and delightful, and the best ones are models of inspiration, skill, and charm. The three I play here are my favorites among the twelve.

In Le Plus Que Lente, Debussy (1862–1918) was making a little fun of the sentimental salon music that riddled Parisian cafés at the turn of the century; but being Claude Debussy, naturally, he wrote a marvelous piece. Le Plus Que Lente is sentimental, but it’s also, paradoxically, tastetful. I love playing it and keep it in my repertoire.
I also love playing Prokofiev’s music, but it can be rough going. It requires a certain athleticism, both in technique and aesthetic. Prokofiev (1891–1953) wrote Suggestion Diabolique while he was still a very young man, but all of the elements of his mature style are present in this “devilish,” difficult work.

DOMENICO SCARLATTI (1685–1757) was the greatest Italian writer for the harpsichord of his time. He composed well over five hundred one-movement pieces for the instrument, which are now generally called Sonatas. Scarlatti’s keyboard Sonatas are bursting with clever keyboard tricks—wide skips, crossing hands and rapidly repeating notes — presumably derived from the influence of the guitar, which he absorbed during his long tenure in service to the Spanish and Portuguese Courts. I first heard Scarlatti’s Sonata in E Major during my freshman year at The Ohio State University. My friend and colleague, Amy Whitehill, played it during one of our weekly studio classes and it became one of my favorite pieces. I thought its lyricism and openness made it an excellent opening for a solo recital.

Franz Joseph Haydn’s (1732–1809) piano music is too often neglected in favor of that of his younger contemporary, Wolfgang Mozart, which is unfortunate. Like Mozart, Haydn wrote many works for the piano (including fifty-two sonatas) — but unlike Mozart, who was a distinguished public soloist, Haydn wasn’t a piano player. His inability to play the instrument is illustrated in the tell-tale technical peculiarities of his keyboard writing; nonetheless, Haydn’s piano music is idiomatic, and he formulated a unique keyboard style replete with energy, warmth, and typical “Haydenesquie” humor. His Sonata in C Major is a Sergei Rachmaninoff’s (1873–1943) music has been a lifelong passion and continues to be one of my most favorite musical expressions. I find Rachmaninoff’s music so rich and evocative that experiencing it sometimes borders on the physical. It is music of profound emotional impact and sublimely integrated style and content, but it’s tough to play. The complex textures and hyper-virtuosic writing keep the pianist’s brain (and hands!) very busy, but it’s more than worth the effort. Both the Prelude in G Sharp Minor and the Prelude in D Major are miniature masterworks, and both bear Rachmaninoff’s typical melodic intensity and rich harmonic palette. They were two of the composer’s own favorites among his preludes.

I closed this recital with Ernö Von Dohnányi’s (1877–1960) March Humoresque, mostly as a gesture of deference and gratitude to my teacher, Rosemary Platt, who was a student of Edward Kilenyi, who was the primary student of Ernö Dohnányi. I thought this playful little March, composed on a ground bass of four notes (E-flat, D, C, and B-flat), made a whimsical, light-hearted end to a recital of varied art music.

DOMENICO SCARLATTI (1685–1757) was the greatest Italian writer for the harpsichord of his time. He composed well over five hundred one-movement pieces for the instrument, which are now generally called Sonatas. Scarlatti’s keyboard Sonatas are bursting with clever keyboard tricks—wide skips, crossing hands and rapidly repeating notes — presumably derived from the influence of the guitar, which he absorbed during his long tenure in service to the Spanish and Portuguese Courts. I first heard Scarlatti’s Sonata in E Major during my freshman year at The Ohio State University. My friend and colleague, Amy Whitehill, played it during one of our weekly studio classes and it became one of my favorite pieces. I thought its lyricism and openness made it an excellent opening for a solo recital.

Franz Joseph Haydn’s (1732–1809) piano music is too often neglected in favor of that of his younger contemporary, Wolfgang Mozart, which is unfortunate. Like Mozart, Haydn wrote many works for the piano (including fifty-two sonatas) — but unlike Mozart, who was a distinguished public soloist, Haydn wasn’t a piano player. His inability to play the instrument is illustrated in the technical peculiarities of his keyboard writing; nonetheless, Haydn fashioned idiomatic piano music and formulated a unique keyboard style replete with energy, warmth, and typical “Haydenesquie” humor. His Sonata in C Major is a Sergei Rachmaninoff’s (1873–1943) music has been a lifelong passion and continues to be one of my most favorite musical expressions. I find Rachmaninoff’s music so rich and evocative that experiencing it sometimes borders on the physical. It is music of profound emotional impact and sublimely integrated style and content, but it’s tough to play. The complex textures and hyper-virtuosic writing keep the pianist’s brain (and hands!) very busy, but it’s more than worth the effort. Both the Prelude in G Sharp Minor and the Prelude in D Major are miniature masterworks, and both bear Rachmaninoff’s typical melodic intensity and rich harmonic palette. They were two of the composer’s own favorites among his preludes.

I closed this recital with Ernö Von Dohnányi’s (1877–1960) March Humoresque, mostly as a gesture of deference and gratitude to my teacher, Rosemary Platt, who was a student of Edward Kilenyi, who was the primary student of Ernö Dohnányi. I thought this playful little March, composed on a ground bass of four notes (E-flat, D, C, and B-flat), made a whimsical, light-hearted end to a recital of varied art music.

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