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Improvisations And Sonatas: Piano Music Of David Burge

Burge / Watkins
Release Date: 04/12/2011 
Label:  Aca Digital   Catalog #: 20107   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  David Burge
Performer:  David Watkins
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Born in 1930, the American pianist David Burge has worn many hats over the course of his long career. He was a highly respected educator, as well as the author of numerous columns for Keyboard magazine and a valuable book on 20th-century piano music. Older collectors may recall Burge's premiere recording of George Crumb's Makrokosmos Book One. I have vivid memories of a bygone vinyl release on Candide featuring Burge playing music by Berio, Dallapiccola, Stockhausen, Boulez, and Krenek, which made quite an impact during my teenage years as an aspiring composer/pianist with avant-garde aspirations.

Although Burge is less celebrated as a composer in his own right, his catalog boasts more than 100 works that reflect a wide range
Read more of cultures and genres. The present disc focuses on solo piano music dating from Burge's late teens to early 30s. In general, the music is neo-classical in nature and thoroughly pianistic.

The brief 1948 First Sonata is serious and declamatory, evoking Hindemith's language but with a fair share of original harmonic twists and turns. A tinge of Prokofiev's biting whimsy informs the five well-made miniatures that encompass the Five Improvisations (1953). The Second Sonata (1958) also makes use of Prokofiev-like motoric rhythms and deceptively simple melodies, yet these elements are enhanced by Burge's inventive cross-rhythmic phrase manipulation and assertive dynamic outbursts. By contrast, the Third Sonata (1959) is sparser and more rigorous, if a little dry at times.

The Sonatina's note-spinning counterpoint features clever yet obvious major/minor key alterations that sound rather generic and academic from a 2011 vantage-point. However, the Fourth Sonata (1961) begins to chart darker, more dissonant waters; certainly the Vivace movement's spiky phrases and wide interval leaps reveal the benign influence of post-Webern serialists.

You could imagine fuller-bodied, more robust sonics, but that takes nothing away from David Watkins' meticulous, masterful, and sympathetic interpretations. It's heartening to see Burge's piano music getting the attention it deserves, and this disc is a valuable addition to the catalog.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

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BURGE Piano Sonatas Nos. 1–4. Improvisations. Sonatina David Watkins (pn) ACA CM20107 (59:06)


This is fine, sturdy American neoclassicism from the mid 20h century, ranging from 1948 to 1961. David Burge is probably best known as an ardent proponent of new music for the piano, as a performer himself of such composers (and friends) as Berio, Crumb, Martino, Krenek, and many others. He is still with us, in retirement in Rhode Island. His long career in academia concluded with a stint at Eastman, where he chaired the piano department.


His own music is certainly a notch below the aforementioned group in terms of harmonic and structural innovation, which may explain why it is not better known, but it is highly communicative on its own terms. He hews closer to the more conservative style of Barber and Copland, or for that matter, Prokofiev and Hindemith. This is music that has a distinct beginning, middle, and end, presented with clarity and taut construction. This is not to imply that the music lacks emotion; it bristles with theatrical expression, even as those gestures are presented in an orderly fashion. This music refreshes; it clears the head.


David Watkins, a Georgia-based pianist, carries out his task with crisp textures, solid tone, and obvious affection for the music. This is a welcome addition to the catalog of American piano music.


FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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Works on This Recording

1.
Piano Sonata No. 1 by David Burge
Performer:  David Watkins (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1948 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 6 Minutes 21 Secs. 
2.
Adagio, improvisation for piano by David Burge
Performer:  David Watkins (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1953 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 1 Minutes 27 Secs. 
3.
Scherzoso, improvisation for piano by David Burge
Performer:  David Watkins (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1953 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 1 Minutes 42 Secs. 
4.
Aria - Lullaby, improvisation for piano by David Burge
Performer:  David Watkins (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1953 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 5 Minutes 25 Secs. 
5.
Tempo di valse, improvisation for piano by David Burge
Performer:  David Watkins (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1953 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 1 Minutes 23 Secs. 
6.
Piano Sonata No. 2 by David Burge
Performer:  David Watkins (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1958 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 13 Minutes 59 Secs. 
7.
Sonatina for piano by David Burge
Performer:  David Watkins (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1958 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 3 Minutes 48 Secs. 
8.
Piano Sonata No. 3 by David Burge
Performer:  David Watkins (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1959 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 13 Minutes 22 Secs. 
9.
Piano Sonata No. 4 by David Burge
Performer:  David Watkins (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1961 
Venue:  Aca Digital Recording Studio, Atlanta, G 
Length: 9 Minutes 19 Secs. 

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