Sample: Sonata No. 9, Op. 58 (1952)
Vincent Persichetti's (1915-1987) twelve piano sonatas were written over a forty-three-year period. The first nine sonatas, written between 1939 and 1950, are strong, integral and varied works reflecting diverse approaches toward synthesizing a number of styles and idioms. In these pieces, the voices of Schoenberg, Hindemith, Copland, and Bartok and jazz are variously combined and distilled within Persichetti's own developing compositional language, with an increasing emergence of an original style that reaches a kind of initial culmination in the expansive Sonata No. 4. The last three sonatas were created over a much longer span of time than the first three, appearing in 1955, 1965, and 1982, respectively. Each of these last three sonatas represents dramatic culminations of Persichetti's musical universe. Throughout his output, Persichetti employs a very wide stylistic palette, embracing diatonic and modal tonalities, pandiatonicism, polytonality, and atonal languages, as well as other diverse musical approaches. Like all of his works, the piano sonatas are brilliantly crafted, with the opening material usually serving as a unifying element for the entire piece. There is a strong penchant for homophonic textures, a great rhythmic vitality in the fast movements, and often a sense of very affecting poignance in the slow movements. Persichetti also uses scintillating registral contrasts and juxtapositions brilliantly throughout all of his piano writing. This first-ever integral recording of these works features six world premieres and is a major addition to the Persichetti discography.
BBC Music Choice (5/5 stars): "Persichetti's 12 Sonatas for piano come as something of a revelation. A single musical personality runs through them all, revealed in consistently engaging invention, a strong feeling for attractive keyboard colours, whether in lithe counterpoint, limpid chords or sonorous climaxes, and a sense of form and proportion which ensures that nothing outstays its welcome. Geoffrey Burleson's outstanding performances have clearly been a labour of love, and they're recorded with exceptional fidelity. An impressive achievement all round."
- Anthony Burton, BBC Music Magazine
"Although Vincent Persichetti's 12 piano sonatas embrace a marked stylistic evolution over four decades, each is skilfully crafted, concise, assured and effectively though never garishly wrought for the keyboard, reflecting the composer's considerable pianism. Even the barest polyphonic writing is deployed with such registral care that it never sounds thin or dry. Conversely, climactic chordal passages make a clear, sonorous and clutter-free impact. Certainly Geoffrey Burleson not only observes to a proverbial tee but also relishes the composer's meticulous expressive and dynamic contrasts, elaborate pedal indication and precisely worked-out metric modulations. In fact each sonata comes alive by virtue of Burleson's intelligent virtuosity and caring musicianship, qualities that also manifest in his annotations. It's good finally to have all the sonatas brought together in a world-class, excellently engineered reference edition that constitutes a major addition to the catalog."
- Jed Distler, Gramophone
"A superlative recording. Burleson sails through the difficult passages of the 10th and 11th sonatas as if they were child's play. More important, though, he understands how the music breathes, understands its essence. The interpretations are dramatic and vivid. In short, this release is one of the truly great recordings of Persichetti's music generally, and one of the finest recordings of American piano music that I've ever heard."
- Rob Haskins, American Record Guide
According to his own accounts, Roy Harris was born in a log cabin in the Oklahoma panhandle in 1898. He went on to study composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and become one of the most important American symphonists of the 20th century. His Symphony No. 3 brought him worldwide fame, and has been performed and recorded by the New York Philharmonic under Bernstein, and numerous other prominent orchestras and conductors. He also wrote a significant body of piano music, including his dynamic, virtuosic and highly distinctive Piano Sonata, Piano Suite and Toccata. His wide-ranging stylistic ingredients include Medieval chant, Baroque counterpoint, 20th century French music, jazz, American folk music, and dramatic polytonal sonorities. This recording includes five unpublished pieces, four of which receive their world premieres on this release.
"Roy Harris painted with a broad brush in his orchestral works and it's a fascinating experience to hear how he translates his hyperoriginal musical language to the piano. He was married to an excellent pianist, Johana Harris, who played his music with verve. So does Geoffrey Burleson on this new CD, which is a sample of Harris's headstrong and brilliant music. Discover Roy Harris."
- Thomas Roth, OPUS Magazine (Sweden)
"Trained by Nadia Boulanger, Roy Harris had a quite different slant from Charles Ives on what American music might be. Burleson's playing, like the music itself, is truthful, unshowy yet carefully wrought - the punchy contrapuntal dialogue of the Sonata's Scherzo pungently etched."
- Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine
Works of Samuel Barber, Elliott Carter, David Sanford and Augusta Read Thomas
Odd Couple Celebrates Elliott Carter's 100th birthday with a new recording of one of his most popular and loved works, the Sonata for Cello and Piano. David Sanford's jazz and funk-inspired 22 Part I takes up where the distinctively American sound of early Carter leaves off, and Samuel Barber's Cello Sonata Op 6 contrasts a European romanticism to Augusta Read Thomas\' more modern Cantos for Slava, dedicated to the memory of Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) Thomas's work was commissioned for Haimovitz by ASCAP as part of Haimovitz's 2006 Concert Music Award for outstanding contribution to the performance of American Music.
From the liner notes:
If the piano and cello were to fill out a dating survey, answering all of those intimate questions honestly (innate timbres, favorite textures, pitch and dynamic range, general musical preferences) it is highly unlikely that they would have hooked up on a first date, let alone hoped for a long-term (two-hundred year!) relationship...
"The virtuoso team of cellist Matt Haimovitz, who teaches at McGill University, and his pianist friend Geoffrey Burleson, who's at Princeton, just released an aptly named CD called Odd Couple on the Oxingale label. It features an intriguing array of American works for piano and cello, from Samuel Barber's 1932 sonata to Augusta Read Thomas's exquisite Cantos for Slava, composed this year in honour of Mistislav Rostropovich. Listening to it conjured up the thought of how great it would be to hear some of this live. Well, Thursday night, at Pollack Hall at McGill's Schulich School of Music, Haimovitz and Burleson paired up with DJ Olive on turntables and sundry electronics for a fabulous recital. You clearly sense the joy that Haimovitz and Burleson have playing together. The complicity between the two performers couldn't have been more perfect. Burleson then played a "prepared piano" improv, plucking and strumming the strings with horsehair, to take us into Elliot Carter's 1948 Sonata for Cello and Piano. The piano and cello are fiercely independent in this piece, yet sustain a dialogue whose resolution makes perfect sense. Along the way the ride is stimulating and uplifting. At its end, it all seemed too short. The audience roared and the three gentle music giants returned for a rocking, rhythmic trio performance."
-Alan Conter, The Toronto Globe and Mail
David Krakauer, clarinet
Matt Haimovitz, cello
Jonathan Crow, violin
Geoffrey Burleson, piano
Nominated for a 2015 JUNO Award: Classical Album Of The Year - Solo Or Chamber
Sample: David Krakauer: Akoka
"This brilliantly inventive recording pays tribute to Henri Akoka, the Algerian-born clarinetist who egged on Messiaen to compose when both were prisoners of war in a German camp during World War II. Framing a vivid rendition of the Quartet for the End of Time are two musical flights of fancy, an improvisation by the extraordinary clarinetist David Krakauer, and an electronic remix of the quartet by Socalled."
-Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times
In a rare live recording, AKOKA bookmarks the complete Messiaen masterwork Quartet for the End of Time between David Krakauer's own composition/improvisation for the quartet, entitled "Akoka", and Meanwhile... by sound artist Socalled. The album lifts Messiaen's original work out of the polite context of a chamber music performance and places it in a dramatic setting that drives home its gravity and impact, while bringing it into the 21st century. As the forces of fundamentalism, intolerance and violence intensify in today's world, this particular mounting of the great work seems all the more timely. AKOKA was inspired by the wartime experience of clarinetist Henri Akoka, who premiered the Quartet for the End of Time with Olivier Messiaen in Stalag VIII A, the German prisoner-of-war camp in which they were both interred. Henri Akoka's vibrant personality and the story of his survival, with all its twists and turns, is the inspiration for this recording. The album positions the Quartet between two original compositions inspired by Messiaen's famous work: the opening track, Akoka, conceived by the Klezmer and classical clarinetist David Krakauer, is almost entirely improvised by the ensemble; and the closing track, Meanwhile..., by the beat architect (pianist, composer, arranger, singer, rapper, and more) Socalled (a.k.a. Josh Dolgin), merges live samples of the musicians with old radio broadcasts, hiphop, cantorial singing, and markers of time...
Available on Amazon
Sample: Partita (1947)
Released in honor of Berger's 90th birthday year, this is the first CD to unite all solo piano music of the venerated American composer on one release, and includes premiere recordings of several works written over the last 70 years. Berger's music projects a strikingly original synthesis of his own sonic and aesthetic vision with a multiplicity of influences, including jazz, Stravinsky, Copland, and Schoenberg. This project received support from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.
“It's too bad the composer Arthur Berger had to wait till he turned 90 last year to see a recording of his complete works for solo piano. The Centaur label has filled that gap with a CD featuring Geoffrey Burleson, a top-notch pianist, and it was worth the wait, both for Mr. Berger and for anyone interested in vibrant contemporary piano music. The earliest works are products of a Bronx-born composer who has deftly fashioned an urbane voice from diverse enthusiasms. You hear traces of the Second Viennese School, pungent Coplandesque tonality and plenty of streets-of-New York jazziness. But just as these Neo-Classical works have some astringent atonal elements, the Five Pieces for Piano (1969), a rigorously 12-tone work, has Neo-Classical lucidity and shimmering harmonic radiance. Mr. Burleson brings rhythmic brio, rich colorings and a resourceful technique to his accounts of these works. But what really draws you in is his palpable excitement over Mr. Berger's music.”
- Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times
“In its rhythmic cunning and unpredictability, Arthur Berger's music holds one's attention, with a restless fragmented style, tempi and metres constantly upturned...Berger's precise rhythmic pointing and independence of voices are singular. Geoffrey Burleson's agile, incisive performances make the strongest possible case for this music, and the disc gains by the pianist's own informed and comprehensive notes.”
- Lawrence A Johnson, Gramophone
“Berger’s piano music is a major strand in his work...it is written in several techniques, and sometimes styles as diverse as German Baroque, cheeky French charm, and advanced New York jazz coexist in different layers within the same piece. But all of it bears the unmistakable mark of the same quirky and indispensable personality, and all exhibits an elevated level of craftsmanship. None of his music outlives its welcome; it’s sparse but not austere because it has so many implications. Burleson plays this music with assurance, color, character and devotion. His extensive experience in all kinds of music, including jazz, comes in handy here, and so does the precision of his ear. Burleson’s performances are full of playful insight, offered in tribute to the composer’s richly lived 90 years.”
- Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe
Available on Amazon
An evocative survey of vocal and solo piano music by two of the leading musical forces of Weimar Berlin. The CD opens with Arnold Schoenberg's alternately seductive and satirical Brettl-Lieder, written for the Über-Brettl Cabaret in Berlin. Schoenberg's student Hanns Eisler is represented by his dynamic and forceful song collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, as well as his Piano Sonata No. 2 and other solo piano music. American composer Ed Harsh's "be not the slave of words/i fear loquacious odes" concludes the CD, brilliantly recasting, colliding and synthesizing Weimar styles with modern popular idioms.