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Music From America's First & Second Cities - Muczynski, Gershwin, Sowerby, Del Tredici

Release Date: 10/27/2009 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 2997   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Robert MuczynskiGeorge GershwinLeo SowerbyDavid Del Tredici,   ... 
Performer:  Steven Graff
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews


MUCZYNSKI Toccata. GERSHWIN 3 Posthumous Preludes. Preludes: Nos. 1–3. SOWERBY From the Northland. DEL TREDICI Ballad in Yellow. LA MONTAINE 6 Dance Read more Preludes. BARBER Sonata

The most compelling music on this collection, indeed, the best reason to purchase the CD, is the lesser-known material, the most substantial being the five-movement Leo Sowerby piece from 1922. Sowerby, a Chicago native, was obviously under the thrall of Debussy when he wrote the music, displaying a distinctly American style of impressionism with great skill and ingenuity. Water is an element in three of the sections, also the forest, conjuring the raw beauty of the vast American Midwest. In the music that brackets the set, but especially the final episode, “The Shining Big Sea-Water,” the ecstatic Debussy is conjured, as in L’isle joyeuse.

Another Chicagoan, Robert Muczynski, offers the grittiest piece on an otherwise conservative program with a rapid-fire Toccata from 1961. Although the harmonic language is highly chromatic, the work is made accessible by the rhythmic tautness and sheer energy of the construction, in the manner of the Prokofiev work of the same name. Also from the Windy City is John La Montaine, although he might also be claimed by the Rochester, N.Y., school of Howard Hanson, one of his most important teachers (at Eastman). This attractive 1964 composition resembles a modern day Baroque dance suite. Another work of relative obscurity comes from David Del Tredici, in a lush homage to the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca. It is a fine, even hypnotic piece of piano writing, beautifully evocative and reminiscent of the dense neo-Romanticism of Rachmaninoff.

Gershwin wrote three very short preludes that were not published for 50 years, around the same time that he wrote his three widely known preludes, in the mid 1920s. They are sweet bon-bons from the Tin Pan Alley side of the composer’s personality, and not a significant addition to his œuvre.

Pianist Steven Graff plays all of the preceding music with passion and no little flair. He has a fluid, natural sense of rhythm, especially notable in the Sowerby and Del Tredici. He is formidable, as well, in the widely played Gershwin and Barber, without displacing my favorites (Levant and Wild, respectively). And by the way, it is a stretch to call Barber a New York musician. Since he was born, educated, and taught in the Philadelphia area (he was a student and, briefly, a teacher at Curtis), that city gets the bragging rights.

FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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Works on This Recording

Toccata for Piano, Op. 15 by Robert Muczynski
Performer:  Steven Graff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Preludes (3) for Piano by George Gershwin
Performer:  Steven Graff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; USA 
Novelette in fourths by George Gershwin
Performer:  Steven Graff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Sleepless Night "Melody no 17" by George Gershwin
Performer:  Steven Graff (Piano)
Rubato by George Gershwin
Performer:  Steven Graff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
From the Northland by Leo Sowerby
Performer:  Steven Graff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; USA 
Ballad in Yellow by David Del Tredici
Performer:  Steven Graff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Dance Preludes (6), Op. 18 by John La Montaine
Performer:  Steven Graff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964 
Sonata for Piano in E flat minor, Op. 26 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Steven Graff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 

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