All at Grand Piano were saddened to hear of the passing of the experimental American composer Alvin Lucier, who has died at the age of 90.
Born and raised in New Hampshire, Lucier graduated from Yale in 1954, subsequently studying with Aaron Copland and Lukas Foss at the Tanglewood Center before spending two years in Rome on a Fulbright Fellowship, from 1960 to 1962. There, he became enthralled with the avant-garde sound worlds of Luigi Nono, Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen and went on to co-found the Sonic Arts Union, a composition collective dedicated to exploring the nature of sound. That exploration would be his life’s calling.
Lucier created a significant body of work which challenges some of the most fundamental definitions of music and performance, realising music material from sources that included amplified vases, clocks, a chest of drawers, even his own brain waves, focusing on acoustic phenomena and how listeners perceive it.
Grand Piano recently released one of his final works, a newly realised version of his Music for Piano with Slow Sweep Pure Wave Oscillators XL, which he wrote in 2020 for Nicolas Horvath, the performer on the album (GP857):
“It’s an immersive, intense and enigmatic work that transports the listener through the timbral possibilities of sonic interference. There are times when the sounds seem to move awkwardly or eerily; this is what Alvin was looking for … all those oddities that happen when the frequencies are very near to one another.”
French composer Florent Schmitt (1870–1958) wrote a substantial number of works for piano over a period of more than fifty years. A surprising number of them, however, still await their first commercial recordings, in some cases more than a century after they were created. Biljana Urban’s latest release on the Grand Piano label (GP850) includes the world premiere recordings of five of them.
Phillip Nones, an authority on the music of Florent Schmitt, recently spoke with Biljana about her strategy in arriving at the programme for the album, how she became aware of and attracted to Schmitt’s output, her Francophile attachments, and the background to the recording’s production. He also gained an insight into the title of her latest release – Solitude.
To read the full article, which is posted on Phillip Nones’ website devoted to the composition, background and performance of Schmitt’s music, follow this link.
GRAND PIANO artist Tanya Ekanayaka is featured in the October edition of International Piano with regard to her third and latest release on the label. The Sri Lankan-British artist-scholar describes her article for the publication as “…entirely about my broader artistic vision as a South Asian female composer-pianist, in which I talk about aspects of my creative life and purpose which I have not shared previously publicly.”
Released in May this year, Dr Ekanayaka’s latest album is titled The Planets and Humanity – Piano Reflections (GP879) in which she pairs planets in the Solar System with Earth’s seven continents: “Except for Antarctica, which has no permanent human population, my reflections on the remaining six continents involve ‘transcreations’ of six melodies originating from six indigenous peoples, namely the Asháninka, Cree, Gond, Hadzabe, Numbulwar and Sámi peoples.”
GRAND PIANO is delighted to report that Vol. 4 of Nicholas Walker’s complete edition of Balakirev’s works for solo piano has received a Russian Pure Sound Award in the solo category. The announcement was made on 3 September.
Organised by the Russian Music Union, the Pure Sound awarding body is the first to acknowledge the best audio recordings of Russian music. Awards are made every two years in the eight categories: opera, choral works, orchestral music, vocal chamber music, ensemble chamber music, solo chamber music, restoration of archived recordings and a mixed category.
While the complete edition box set is scheduled for release this month, Vol. 4 was issued in May 2019 and was extremely well received: “Walker’s artistry benefits from vivid, realistic, full-bodied, and well-balanced sound, with well-defined piano tone and ample color.” (Fanfare) The album’s mixed programme includes a number of substantial works, including Balakirev’s 3 Scherzi and his Caprice Brillant en forme d’ouverture sur le thême de ‘La Jota Aragonesa’ de M. Glinka, a truly brilliant and highly virtuosic work.
Following the release of Vol. 6, the final album in the edition in September 2020, The Spectator hailed the complete set as “a revelation” and one that “has to be heard to be believed: I almost want to see video proof that there aren’t three hands on the keyboard in the Reminiscences of Glinka’s ‘A Life for the Tsar’ … there’s no doubt in my mind that Nicholas Walker has finally emerged as one of Britain’s greatest pianists.”
All at GRAND PIANO send many congratulations to Nicholas for his outstanding achievement.
Opus Klassik represents Germany’s most important set of annual awards for classical music. We’re delighted to report that a Grand Piano album has been nominated for a 2020 award in no fewer than three categories: World Premiere Recording of the Year, Solo Recording, and Young Artist.
Jamina Gerl’s album of piano works by Ferdinand Pfohl (GP784) was released in October 2019 and the world premiere recordings immediately drew critical interest and praise: “Two great piano cycles that are definitely to be (re)discovered—Strandbilder (1892) and Suite élégiaque (1894)—have found their master pianist in Jamina Gerl. This CD is fantastic!”—Musik und Tanz.
Ferdinand Pfohl (1862–1949) was a distinguished German music critic who never lost a passion for composition. He wrote highly individual works for the piano, conceiving cycles that reveal harmonic daring and sophistication, often evocative of developments in impressionism.
German pianist Jamina Gerl’s hallmark qualities of artistic depth, technical superiority and a remarkable sense of tonal colour proved themselves with these Opus Klassik nominations, and we wish her success in the selection of the winners, which will be announced in the autumn. The awards ceremony will take place on 18 October at the Konzerthaus Berlin.