Notes and Editorial Reviews
Known principally as the perceptive accompanist to Mstislav Rostropovich and Anne-Sophie Mutter, Lambert Orkis is a pianist whose sympathies run the gamut of the instrument’s aesthetic and technical evolution. The latter is especially evident here, with two substantial works from the turn of the new century demonstrating what is possible within the hallowed genre of the piano sonata.
The collaboration of Richard Wernick, now in his 70th year, with Orkis has already resulted in a sonata and concerto (3/87 and 11/98). The Second Piano Sonata is an ingeniously constructed piece in three parts. Part I frames an introspective Arioso with a lively Intrada and brittle Toccata – the material of each being reworked, in reverse order,
in Part III. Between them, a sequence of Fantasy Variations intercuts developments of earlier ideas in a lengthy span of cumulative intensity, though the process is not completed until the theme itself returns to round off the work in tranquil repose. Musically, Wernick’s piano writing owes something to the rugged lyricism of Roger Sessions, though with an emotional expansiveness – powerfully articulated – which seems entirely personal.
A one-time pupil of Wernick, James Primosch is in his late forties, and his Sonata-Fantasia evinces an ear for keyboard sonority which is nothing if not inclusive. The work is composed for piano and synthesizer, cross-cut and superimposed so that the sound of one merges directly out of, or into, the other. The opening Theme and Variations explores these possibilities imaginatively, as in the intricate ambience of the central Interlude, and humorously – as in the high-flown Romanticism of Variation XI and the electronic parody that follows. This is proceeded by an adagio of arching intensity, then an allegro whose rhythmic vitality propels the piece to a visceral conclusion. In both instances, the two instruments combine in opening-out the timbral and dynamic spectrum to impressive effect.
Performances are as authoritative as one would expect, recorded in an acoustic which projects the music with clarity while giving it room to breathe. Informative notes from Orkis and the composers enhance appreciation of the disc, cordially recommended for highlighting aspects of American new music refreshingly at variance with the prescribed aesthetic now reaching these shores.
-- Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone [9/2003]
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Piano no 2 by Richard Wernick
Lambert Orkis (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 2000; USA
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