As a conductor, Daniel Barenboim has had a distinguished history with the orchestral music of Debussy, but this is his first full-album foray into the French composer’s solo piano works. It runs the gamut of Debussy’s Impressionist colour palette, from the shimmering “Clair de Lune”—played with the subtlety and expressive freedom that Barenboim admires so much in Debussy’s own piano-roll recordings—to the restless, swirling prelude “Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest.” The simple, hymn-like “La fille aux cheveux de lin,” meanwhile, shines anew under Barenboim’s fingers.
Pianist David Breitman writes of his new release of Beethoven music for piano and cello: “I first became interested in historical keyboards as a piano student in Boston in the 1970s. Boston was then, and is still, an early music centre, and I had frequent opportunities to hear renaissance and baroque ensembles in concert. I eventually decided to take some harpsichord lessons with Robert Hill, freshly returned from Amsterdam where he had been studying with Gustav Leonhardt."
Composer John Cage (1912-1992) is one of the classical world’s best known experimental composers and theorists. Electronic Music for Piano is one of Cage’s least known pieces because the score is among his most enigmatic and consequently, there are few commercial recordings of it. Written in Stockholm in 1964 on hotel letterhead, the notes ask the performer to select parts from his Music for Piano 4-84 and use electronic equipment. Everything else is up to the artist’s discretion. Enter Tania Chen, the U.K.-based pianist who has become a revered and leading interpreter of Cage’s work. Recording in both London and Berkeley, CA, Chen joined forces with Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), David Toop (former member of The Flying Lizards, and recording artist on Brian Eno’s Obscure label) and Jon Leidecker (aka Wobbly, who has also worked with Negativland) to create a new version of this piece helmed by Gino Robair composer, musician, and scholar.
The piano may not be the ideal medium for capturing the expressive possibilities of Glass' style of minimalism, but pianist Bruce Brubaker selects pieces that work well on the instrument. Part of the problem with hearing Glass on the piano is forgetting the sound of his ensemble, and the variety of colors (and volume) they have imparted to similar music. Brubaker begins his recital of works by Glass and Alvin Curran with his transcription of "Knee Play 4" from Einstein on the Beach. It is in fact a lovely piece on the piano if one can put the spectacular power and tonal range of the instrumental version out of one's mind. "Opening" from Glassworks, originally scored for piano, works beautifully on the instrument, and flows as naturally as the C major Prelude from Book I of The Well Tempered Clavier. The two pieces by Curran, Hope Street Tunnel Blues III and Inner Cities II, use a syntax similar to Glass, with a more dissonant tonal vocabulary. Hope Street Tunnel Blues III has ample kinetic energy that gives it an exhilarating momentum.
Bruce Brubaker artistic skill and understanding of this music is beyond reproach and will thrill any fan of the collected composers work on this CD. The sound quality is outstanding as well. Bruce Brubaker has recorded two CDs on the Arabesque label in a continuing series exploring modern American piano music. The most recent, Inner Cities, was released in September 2003, and includes Brubaker's transcription of Pat Nixon's aria from Adams's opera, Nixon in China. The previous CD, Glass Cage , with pieces by Glass and Cage, was named one of the ten best releases of 2000 by The New Yorker magazine.