Pianist Ursula Oppens, stalwart champion of 20th- and 21st-century American music and recipient of multiple Grammy nominations and other honors, celebrates her decades-long friendship and professional association with composer Laura Kaminsky on an album of world-premiere recordings. The program includes two recent works written for the pianist: Kaminsky’s Piano Quintet, performed with the Cassatt String Quartet, “a concise work of considerable substance and atmosphere” (New York Classical Review) and the turbulent Reckoning: Five Miniatures for America for piano four-hands, with pianist Jerome Lowenthal, created expressly for this recording. A large-scale Fantasy for solo piano explores sonorities from French Impressionism to jazz. Oppens gave the New York premiere in 2017. Kaminsky’s Piano Concerto was inspired by visual images of sunlit rivers in New York City and St. Petersburg, Russia, where Oppens gave the world premiere with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic led by its artistic director Jeffery Meyer. On this world-premiere recording, Meyer, who is also director of orchestras at Arizona State University, conducts the ASU Symphony Orchestra.
The solo piano Fantasy is just that, an imaginative fantasia piece that moves in unexpected directions at Kaminsky’s whim. A few hints of jazz rhythm come and go in it as well as a remarkable passage in which the two hands play completely different and opposing lines against each other. Interestingly, this Fantasy is longer than the entire Piano Quintet and only eight seconds shorter than the entire Piano Concerto that ends the disc. More and different permutations follow within that time span, all of them unexpected and interesting. These performances, all first recordings of these works, are all excellent, which helps us to appreciate Kaminsky’s sound world. Highly recommended.
– The Art Music Lounge