Michael Arnowitt, piano
J.S. Bach ⋅ My Favorite Fugues, selections from
The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Art of the Fugue
Arnold Schoenberg ⋅ Six Small Piano Pieces op. 19 and
Piano Piece op. 23 no. 3
Victoria Poleva ⋅ Sonata no. 2 “quasi una fantasia” (2011)
Elliott Carter ⋅ Caténaires, no. 2 from
Two Thoughts About the Piano (2006)
Gyorgy Ligeti ⋅ Selections from Études for piano, Book 1 (1985)
and Book 2 (1988-1994)
Étude no. 2, Cordes à vide (Open strings)
Étude no. 3, Touches bloquées (Blocked keys)
Étude no. 4, Fanfares
Étude no. 5, Arc-en-ciel (Rainbow)
Étude no. 10, Der Zauberlehrling (The sorcerer’s apprentice)
George Benjamin ⋅ Selections from Piano Figures (2004)
Spell - Knots - Alone - Hammers - Mosaic
Dennis Bathory-Kitsz ⋅ no. 11, 20, 14, and 2 from
Tirkiinistra: Landscape Preludes (2002)
Elisabeth Lutyens ⋅ La Natura dell’Acqua
(The nature of water, 1981)
Arthur Lourié ⋅ Selected pieces
Mazurka, op. 7 no. 1 (1912)
Upmann – A “Smoking Sketch” (1917)
A Phoenix Park Nocturne (1938)
Marche from Quatre pièces (1927)
Musical Landscapes presents a cornucopia of pieces Michael Arnowitt has been currently fascinated with, spotlighting both some of the finest solo piano pieces of recent decades and some important works of the early 20th century that foreshadowed the course of the 100 years of music that has led up to our own time.
The program features a major work by the present-day Ukrainian composer Victoria Poleva. This Kiev-based composer writes highly absorbing music that is simple yet powerful, expressive, and deeply spiritual. Victoria Poleva recently sent Michael Arnowitt ten of her piano compositions. This year marks the beginning of Arnowitt’s efforts to champion her music and raise awareness in North America of this outstanding composer. Her Sonata “quasi una fantasia” borrows the official title of Beethoven’s famous “Moonlight” Sonata and is a dramatic, moving work of great emotional depth. In an interview, Poleva said, “What I have is a splendid lawless land where no one can give orders, just as no one has to take them; where anything can happen. I’m soaring over this land, responding to whatever interests or affects me by writing music.”
Two British composers are highlighted on the program. Elisabeth Lutyens, an important mid-20th century composer, is represented by her work The Nature of Water which she wrote near the end of her life. A provocative, outspoken composer with a larger-than-life personality best known for her film scores, Lutyens’ sensitive piano writing, with its dark sensuous low rumblings, gentle rippling motions, and beautiful use of silences, is a perfect fit for a piece about the fascinating fluidity of water. Another British composer whose music Michael Arnowitt has been enjoying discovering recently is George Benjamin. His 2004 collection Piano Figures has enchanting, highly creative depictions of knots, hammers, a mosaic, and more.
Elliott Carter’s exciting 2006 composition Caténaires (Cables) has been receiving many performances in recent years, becoming one of the hottest pieces of new music of our time. In Caténaires, there is no harmony or counterpoint: rather, all you hear is a whirlwind of super-fast notes creating a single line that flies through the different regions of the piano in quicksilver fashion, occasionally interrupted by repeated notes in the middle of the keyboard. This piece was composed by Carter at the astounding age of 98 years old – he lived until age 103, composing to the very end. The verdict of time remains to be given, but a number of musicians, including Michael Arnowitt, are finding they’re liking best the music Carter composed in his 90’s and older in this final period of his life.
A special feature of the program is a set of five études by the Hungarian-born composer Gyorgy Ligeti. In the last few decades of his life, Ligeti had a huge burst of energy for writing piano music and composed three books of études Michael Arnowitt regards as the best piano pieces of the last fifty years. This concert provides a great opportunity for audiences to hear live a set of these widely-praised pieces that have been among the most talked about classical compositions of recent decades. Arnowitt will perform Open Strings, Blocked Keys, Fanfares, Rainbow, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, showcasing the amazing imagination of these pieces full of beautiful new piano sounds and textures, some of which creatively treat the piano keyboard as a non-linear loop where music goes off one extreme end of the piano and magically reappears on the other end.
Shorter works on the program include some of the pianist’s favorite fugues from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Art of the Fugue, important pieces from Schoenberg’s expressionist period of free atonality that influenced a great deal of 20th century music, and four of Vermont composer Dennis Bathory-Kitsz’s Landscape Preludes, where he took autumn outdoor photographs and transformed them into music by extracting the design, color, and density change information of the original photographs and applying them to folk-like modal scales of his own making.
The concert ends with a set of pieces by the Russian-born Arthur Lourié, who lived in Paris in the 1920’s and 1930’s and later emigrated to the United States. Lourié has been well described as one of the most interesting forgotten composers of the 20th century, and Michael Arnowitt has been among a growing number of performers of today bringing Lourié’s fascinating music to greater attention. Unusually for a composer, each of his pieces sounds different from each other, and for this program Arnowitt has selected five works from 1912 to 1938 that are just the tip of the iceberg revealing this very unique composer’s great creativity. His Mazurka inhabits a dreamworld with tinkly out of tune resonances that are reminiscent of the sound of a music box. The intriguing Intermezzo begins with some brooding music whose slow swirling dance gestures gradually gather momentum and accelerate to a waltz, spurred on by some crackling drum rhythms. The Upmann Smoking Sketch, written for a pantomime, is an Erik Satie-like piece of whimsical comedy influenced by ragtime. A Phoenix Park Nocturne, regarded by some as Lourié’s finest piece of piano music, refers to a section of James Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake depicting the different behaviors of people, birds, and exotic animals in the park zoo as they settle down for the night. Finally, the March, dedicated to Horowitz, is full of humor and energetic good spirits.
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