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Lukas Foss: Piano Concertos, Elegy For Anne Frank / St Clair

Release Date: 04/10/2001 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 907243   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Lukas Foss
Performer:  Jon NakamatsuYakov KasmanEliza FossLukas Foss
Conductor:  Carl St. Clair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pacific Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Lukas Foss composed his first piano concerto originally for clarinet while studying with Hindemith at Tanglewood and at Yale. The work was rewritten for piano four years later in 1943. Though the first movement delights with its Prokofiev-style neo-classicism, Hindemith's influence is unmistakable in the slow movement's beautifully angular harmonies. In the Hungarian-flavored finale, Foss' youthful impetuosity is on display with the cocksure bravura of the piano writing, easily captured by Jon Nakamatsu's smiling performance.

Piano Concerto No. 2 was composed seven years after No. 1, and it reflects Foss' increased knowledge and self-confidence in his compositional technique.
Read more The grand introduction to the first movement immediately places this work on a broader scale than the previous one, and the piano's bold entrance, with its neo-Lisztian drama, indicates the lofty aims that Foss set for himself (aims reached with stunning virtuosity by pianist Yakov Kasman). Stravinsky had by now replaced Hindemith as Foss' favorite composer, and the great Russian's unique sound permeates the slow movement. It's also interesting that echoes of Leonard Bernstein turn up as well, especially in the rhythmically alive and almost dancing finale (not so surprising when you consider that Bernstein himself was deeply influenced by Stravinsky). In any event, the music is consistently engaging by its fresh-sounding inventiveness, attractive themes, and brilliant solo writing.

Elegy for Anne Frank (1989) is a much later work, and it presents the composer's more somber side. Written to accompany the recitation of passages from Frank's diary (read from the heart by the composer's daughter, actress Eliza Foss), the piece takes the form of an Ivesian symphonic poem, with mysteriously quiet murmurings from the orchestra that gradually build to a shattering climax as a Nazi brass band marches through. Afterward, the music returns to the uneasy stillness of the beginning. Frank's grippingly honest and vivid insights make listening to the work a chilling experience, but Foss' piece is strong enough to satisfy on its own account (the CD offers both narrated and un-narrated versions). Harmonia Mundi has given us an intelligently programmed, finely wrought disc of engaging music by an important (and still living) American composer, brilliantly performed by the orchestra, wonderfully conducted by Carl St. Clair, and beautifully recorded too. Not to be missed.

[Editor's Note: Mr. John Forsyte, President of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, after reading our review, asked that we add the following information for interested readers: "This project was the brainchild of Carl St.Clair, who re-discovered the two piano concertos, which had not been performed in many years. He invited Jon Nakamatsu and Yakov Kasman to participate, having just conducted them at our summer festival. Once Harmonia Mundi had agreed to the project, the Pacific Symphony raised over $100,000 to fund the recording. It was great triumph for all of us who love Mr. Foss and want to honor his contributions to American music on the eve of this 80th birthday. We are also very proud of our other recorded contributions to new music, which include CDs of music by Corigliano, Goldenthal, Takemitsu, and Ticheli. I think you will find few orchestras of our short history (22 years) and budget size ($9 million) who have 17 commercial recordings."]

--Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 1 by Lukas Foss
Performer:  Jon Nakamatsu (Piano)
Conductor:  Carl St. Clair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pacific Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USA 
Date of Recording: 2000 
Venue:  Orange County Performing Arts Center, CA 
Length: 25 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Concerto for Piano no 2 by Lukas Foss
Performer:  Yakov Kasman (Piano)
Conductor:  Carl St. Clair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pacific Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949/1953; USA 
Date of Recording: 2000 
Venue:  Orange County Performing Arts Center, CA 
Length: 36 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Elegy for Anne Frank by Lukas Foss
Performer:  Eliza Foss (Spoken Vocals), Lukas Foss (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989/1999; USA 
Date of Recording: 2000 
Venue:  Orange County Performing Arts Center, CA 
Length: 9 Minutes 59 Secs. 

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