Quattro Mani at Weill and on CD

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Quattro Mani

November 15, 2017

Weill Recital Hall

Works by Gosfield, Moravec, Machover, Lansky, and Ben-Amots

NEW YORK – Since 2013, pianists Susan Grace and Steven Beck have been performing together as the duo Quattro Mani. Their recent recital at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall presented several New York premieres, including pieces by Annie Gosfield, Paul Moravec, Tod Machover, and Paul Lansky. Gosfield’s mix of dissonance with rollicking rhythms was winning in “Refracted Rhythms and Telepathic Static.” Lansky’s three Color Codas – “In the Red,” Purple Passion,” and “Out of the Blue” – indeed embodied multihued harmonies and sparking ostinatos. Moravec writes in an elegant, idiomatic style for the piano. His Quattro Mani contains a substantial amount of memorable material — dare one hope it is a sketch for a double concerto? The evening culminated in a scintillating performance of John Adams’ Hallelujah Junction, which was both fiery and superbly coordinated.

Quattro Mani’s latest CD recording for Bridge Records, Re-Structures, is an engaging outing. The title work, also heard at Weill Hall, is by Machover. Scored for piano and electronics, it juxtaposes frenetic acoustic virtuosity with correspondingly penetrating digital commentary. Lansky’s Out of the Blue, one of the Color Codas also on the New York program, is an attractive post-minimal exploration of small cells of material that gradually expand into boisterous passages in octaves and quick scalar runs.

The multi-movement work Cembal d’Amore, Book Two by Poul Ruders changes up the duo’s instrumentation: Beck plays harpsichord while Grace remains at the piano. Its corruscating textures, varying duplications and canons in a sequence of movements based in part on Baroque dance suites, revels in chromaticism and wry wit in equal measure. Yet another shift in approach is found in Életút Lebenslauf by György Kurtág. Basset horns, played by Andy Stevens and Sergei Vassiliev, accompany the pianists playing instruments tuned in microtones. Mysterious timbres bump elbows with thornily dissonant angularity in a piquant, unforgettable piece.

The CD’s closer is a bit more straightforward, but no less captivating.  Tango for the Road by Ofer Ben-Amots is an eight-minute long exploration of traditional tango rhythms and gestures, with a few surprises and a left turn or two along the way. The piece gives Grace and Beck an ideal vehicle to showcase the supple phrasing and suavity they bring to bear whenever given a chance to swing.

Re-Structures is an adventurous exploration of many facets of 21st century piano music: highly recommended.

-Christian Carey

Hayes Biggs played by Thomas Stumpf (YouTube)

Pianist Thomas Stumpf’s latest Albany Records recording features composer Hayes Biggs’s first Piano Prelude, The Secret the Silent Lazarus Would Not Reveal. Based on the poem, “The Afterlife,” by Billy Collins, it is a virtuosic traversal of the piano’s low register, featuring sepulchrally jazzy chords and ominous angular melodies.

Stumpf’s Reflections on Time and Mortalitya two-disc set, also includes pieces by Chopin, Debussy, Janàcek, Bartók, John McDonald, and Yehudi Wyner.

5/28: Carey Portrait Concert in Princeton

Christian Carey - head shot

EVENT: Christian Carey Portrait Concert

WHEN: Saturday, May 28, 2016 at 5 PM

WHERE: All Saints Church, 16 All Saints Road, Princeton NJ 08540

Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project and Sara Noble proudly co-present this composer portrait celebrating Christian Carey’s music and his contribution to the community as a composer and teacher. The concert will feature performances by many of his friends and former students.

Free admission, donations graciously accepted

Program: (all music by Christian Carey, unless otherwise noted)
Spiritual variations I & II for organ – Tom Colao
Je suis aime de la plus belle – Sara Noble
Nocturnes for Mezzo, by Cortlandt Matthews – Jessica Moreno and Sergey Tkachenko
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven – Megan Ihnen and Graeme Burgan
Psalm 103 – Megan Ihnen and Sara Noble
*Anniversary – Thomas Cunningham
*Lullaby – Thomas Cunningham
*Solo 2 – Ian Good
*Reunion – Ian Good
From Blue Symphony – Sara Noble and Graeme Burgan
*Lullaby Vocalise – Sara Noble and Graeme Burgan
Kenyon Songs – Megan Ihnen and Graeme Burgan
Hymn: Add one more seat to the table

* indicates world premiere

Featuring:
Graeme Burgan
Tom Colao
Thomas Cunningham
Ian Good
Megan Ihnen
Cortlandt Matthews
Jessica Moreno
Sara Noble
Sergey Tkachenko

R. Andrew Lee Plays Paul A. Epstein (CD Review)

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Paul A. Epstein Piano Music

R. Andrew Lee, piano

Irritable Hedgehog CD/DL

 

Prior to this recording, composer Paul A. Epstein was not a name known to me. There are so many vital creators out there that one must continue to search for them. Thankfully, R. Andrew Lee has recorded this disc for Irritable Hedgehog. It presents eight of Epstein’s compositions for solo piano: a delightfully diverse and stimulating collection.

In Will Robin’s excellently annotated liner notes, he points out that Epstein doesn’t fall neatly into the minimalist category. His interest in Sol LeWitt, Philip Glass, and Tom Johnson notwithstanding, there are processes afoot in Epstein’s music that share an affinity with modernism. Thus, we hear motoric passages brushing up against piles of dissonance and non-tonal canons. Some processes of pitch and rhythmic manipulation demonstrate an awareness of serial approaches: Robin quotes post-minimalist composer and author Kyle Gann, who likens Epstein to “the Milton Babbitt of minimalism.”

Lee performs this challenging music nimbly, with extraordinary verve and impressive rhythmic accuracy. The pianist has steadily expanded his reach to include many composers from seemingly all corners of experimental music. While one savors this recording, it is also exciting to contemplate what Lee will come up with next.