It is with great excitement that I am releasing my new CD: “Piano Music from France.” Most of you that already know me are aware of my profound love and admiration of French music, and it is fitting that my first CD be comprised of music of Ravel, Debussy, and Chopin. Some of you may wonder why I chose to include Chopin on this album. It is true that Chopin was born in Poland, and retained a unique Polish voice throughout his musical oeuvre, however he spent most of his short life in Paris, and was fully assimilated into nineteenth-century French culture. Each of the three works of Chopin on this disc were written in Paris.
Ravel’s Miroirs is a piece that I have always found especially intriguing. I find it to be a particularly fine example of his unique sound-world. Furthermore I find the piano writing especially idiomatic and comfortable under the hands. This is not to say that the music is easy to play – on the contrary, movements such as Noctuelles, Une barque sur l’océan, and Alborada del gracioso are fiendishly difficult, yet the writing always feels physically “logical.” Fortunately, I’ve had to opportunity to perform this suite a number of times, and I never tire of it.
I feel that Debussy’s Images book 1 is a wonderful counterpart to Miroirs. Both suites are examples of the impressionistic tendencies of each composer, yet the movements in Images could never be mistaken for Ravel. Although I love the entire suite, I find Reflets dans l’eau to be the stand-out movement. I consider Reflets to be a feat of compositional perfection – one of the finest works in the entire piano literature. It is at once architecturally sound, pianistically inventive, and astonishingly beautiful.
The two Mazurkas on the CD are favorites of mine. The C Major sparkles with a graceful melody – rustically tinged with the Lydian mode. It’s a piece that I often use as an encore, and I hope that it is as much of a delight to hear as it is to play! The C-sharp minor Mazurka is, to me, the most beautiful of all of Chopin’s Mazurkas. My personal favorite recording is Rachmaninoff’s, and if you haven’t heard it, I would encourage you to do so! I hear this Mazurka as being seductive and sultry, rather than outwardly emotive, and my hope is to give a reading that conveys these affects. The fourth Ballade is another piece that is very close to my heart. Aside from being extremely technically demanding, this ballade requires an enormous palette of color and imagination. Particularly challenging is the sheer thickness of texture and counterpoint; from the ethereal opening to the devastating final chords, the F minor ballade is a masterpiece of melodic layering. There are just so many beautiful lines happening simultaneously that it is very difficult to do justice to each one! The artistic and physical demands of the fourth Ballade are infamous, yet it is a piece that I always return to with excitement, love, and inspiration.
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