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Corigliano, Rota, Korngold: Piano Music / Jimmy Briere

Korngold / Corigliano / Rota / Briere
Release Date: 09/14/2010 
Label:  Analekta   Catalog #: 29973   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John CoriglianoNino RotaErich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Jimmy Brière
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KORNGOLD Piano Sonata No. 2. ROTA 15 Preludes. CORIGLIANO Etude Fantasy Jimmy Brière (pn) ANALEKTA AN 2 9973 (68:32)

The point behind this CD is that all three composers have won Oscar awards for their film music. It would not be accurate, however, to describe any of the three as “film composers,” as all of them have had (or, in the case of Corigliano, continue to have) Read more important careers writing concert music.

All three of these works have been recorded before. There’s even a live recording from 1977, on the Istituto Discografico Italiano (IDI) label, of Nino Rota playing his 15 Preludes. (I have not heard it.) Jimmy (not James, apparently) Brière, a Québécois pianist who studied with Leon Fleischer, Menahem Pressler, and André Laplante, among others, was clever enough to devise this particular combination of works—a combination that works very well, I might add.

Korngold’s four-movement sonata was premiered by Artur Schnabel in 1911. Korngold was barely a teenager at the time. Nevertheless, this is an assured work that contains many of the composer’s later melodic and harmonic fingerprints. In fact, in many ways it is more daring than much of what Korngold would write in the years to come. This muscular music demands a big technique, and receives it from Brière. Particularly in the first movement, he adopts faster tempos than Martin Jones (Nimbus), but he is slower than Michael Schäfer (Profil), who also has a richer and more colorful sound—at least in the way that it has been presented by Profil’s recording engineers. I have a slight preference for Schäfer, but by no means do I dislike Brière here.

The longest of Rota’s preludes is over in 2:07; the shortest is 1:03. They were composed in 1964, long after he had begun his creative relationship with Federico Fellini. Despite their brevity, these are emotional pieces; as a film composer, Rota learned how to establish a mood quickly. Overall, Danielle Laval (Naïve) plays these pieces with a lighter touch and a brighter color. Still, Brière’s more plainspoken approach does not rob them of their impact.

John Corigliano’s Etude Fantasy , composed in 1976, is actually a chain of five musically related etudes. The first is for left hand alone, the second is a legato study, the third is based on the figure of an interval of a fifth “contracting” to the interval of a third, the fourth is an ornament study, and the fifth and last is forthrightly melodic, which brings the work to a satisfying close. This is one of Corigliano’s most worthwhile works. It is not an easy work to play. Compared to Andrew Russo (Black Box), it is Brière who writes out the work’s language in capital letters, to good effect. Russo is a little too dry; James Tocco (Sony) is the better choice, if you want an all-Corigliano program.

While Brière doesn’t trounce the competition, his is an imaginative program that is played with fine musicianship, and that has been more than adequately recorded. For those reasons, I am happy to recommend it, and hope to hear more from this pianist.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle

The glue that binds this CD together is Oscar, meaning that all three composers featured here composed Academy Award-winning film scores. Fortunately Korngold's youthful and astonishingly assured Second sonata, Rota's mature yet overlooked 15 Preludes, and John Corigliano's masterful, increasingly familiar Etude Fantasy add up to a stimulating and satisfying program, even without considering a cinematic subtext.

Pianist Jimmy Brière's interpretations fare pretty well next to previous recorded interpretations of the same works. His outsized dynamics, rhythmic exactitude, and rather austere demeanor cast a monumental light upon Rota's Preludes, in contrast to the composer's more animated, conversational, and intimately-scaled playing in a live 1977 archival recording. Similar observations characterize the Korngold sonata's first two movements, although the composer's frequent reliance on octave textures sounds less fatiguing via warmer, more flexible, and technically fine-tuned traversals by Matthijs Verschoor (Etcetera) and Michael Schäfer (Profil). Yet Brière achieves and sustains Korngold's optimistic Vivace directive for the finale, with plenty of energy and bite in the Schumann-like obsessive dotted-rhythms.

In his reading of the Corigliano work, Brière's steel-edged articulation of the Ornaments movement's low-register trills and his declamatory, multi-tiered shaping of the closing Melody movement convince the most. While the pianist is admirably secure and precise throughout the difficult Fifths to Thirds study, my ears refuse to forget Stephen Hough's brisker, more nuanced virtuosity in his better engineered Hyperion rendition. In all, the best of what Jimmy Brière offers makes me want to hear him again.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Etude Fantasy by John Corigliano
Performer:  Jimmy Brière (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; USA 
Preludes (15) for Piano by Nino Rota
Performer:  Jimmy Brière (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1966; Italy 
Sonata for Piano no 2 in E major, Op. 2 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Jimmy Brière (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; Vienna, Austria 

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