Notes and Editorial Reviews
This release easily stands out among Harmonia Mundi's three recital discs devoted to American Pianists Association fellows. It showcases Stephen Beus, who, in his early 20s, plays with the mature mastery and perception of an artist twice his age.
Why does Charles Tomlinson Griffes' passionate, utterly original brand of Romanticism remain outside of the central piano repertoire's mainstream? Certainly the 1918 Piano Sonata's imaginative textures, sensuous melodies, and thoroughly idiomatic keyboard deployment warrant including this work alongside "Great American Piano Sonatas" by Ives, Barber, Carter, and Copland. And if you think some of the tumultuous finale's figurations
are Prokofiev Seventh knock-offs, just remember that the Prokofiev appeared a quarter century later. This movement particularly reveals how the prodigious range of color, articulations, and moods Beus brings to the Sonata as a whole are borne out of the pianist's fastidious adherence to the composer's dynamic markings, stresses, and accents. Moreover, Beus avoids any semblance of banging in the music's loudest, thickest passages. Similar comments apply to the smaller pieces and to the beautifully detailed Scriabin etudes.
Beus unravels the elusive plot-line of Scriabin's Sixth Sonata with no less character and clarity than Hamelin, Ashkenazy, and Richter. Listen to the multi-hued shading of his repeated notes, trills, and rapid rolled chords: this is major-league pianism through and through. Indeed, Beus manages to transform the prolix and uninteresting B minor Fantasy into a mini-masterpiece. Don't miss this truly memorable CD from a pianist destined for great things. Also be sure to check out Beus' impetuous live performances of the Chopin B minor and Barber Sonatas from the 2005 Van Cliburn Competition Preliminary Round, available as digital downloads.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Piano, A 85 by Charles Tomlinson Griffes
Stephen Beus (Piano)
Written: 12/1917-01/1918; United States of Ame
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