viernes, 11 de mayo de 2007

Answers: contemporary piano music

Another question I have been very frequently asked : 1. What, in your opinion, are the great piano pieces written recently ? 2. Which great composers (dead or alive) who haven't written any important piano music you would like to ask to write one ?

Let's limit the word "recently" to the last 25 years, which means starting from 1982. On top of my list is still David del Tredici's "Virtuoso Alice" from 1984. And then comes Oliver Knussen's Variations, op. 24 from 1989 . Then there are these pieces which I couldn't put in order of my preference, so I'll order them alphabetically on the composer's surname : Geoffrey King's "Pithecanthropus Variations", Santiago Lanchares' "Anandamania", one or more of the sonatas of Luca Mosca, David del Puerto's Alio Modo, Jesus Rueda's Sonata no. 2 "Ketjak" from 2005 (as well as his First, from 1991), Toru Takemitsu 's "Les Yeux Clos II", Rob Zuidam's "Spank". And then there are works which are limited in their piano techniques --mostly percussive, the trend of this era -- nevertheless they have great depth and understanding of the instrument and its sound & specific colours ; but hey, each of Chopin's Etudes are like that, right ? I am thinking of John Psathas' "Jettatura", Gareth Farr's "Jangan Lupa", Peter Sculthorpe's "Mountains" and Louis Andriessen's "Trepidus" . I am not sure of the dates of Peter's and Louis' pieces, but they are from the 80s ... let's be flexible, right ?

Answering the second question, I don't think we miss a great piano work by Gustav Mahler, Edward Elgar, Jean Sibelius or Richard Strauss : they are great composers but they very much specialized in orchestral work. The world of music is thankful enough for their orchestral & lyrical masterpieces ! Some of them did write some piano pieces, but they are just "nice". And I personally don't really like the piano works of the lyrical composers I usually highly admire such as Giancarlo Menotti or Ned Rorem. But a peculiar case is about Samuel Barber : he didn't put any of his highly lyrical gifts in his most important piano works : his Sonata and Concerto. He treated the piano as it is : a piano, a percussive instrument, and those two pieces are indeed masterworks by a genius. But I do wish that Benjamin Britten would have written a big piano work : he was a great pianist, and unlike many musicians, he "descended" from Schubert. Also a pity that we don't have one from Leonard Bernstein. And from a composer today, a big piano work from the "Hollywood" composer John Williams would be great, as well as from John Corigliano, Rautavaara, Krzystof Penderecki or Peter Sculthorpe.

By the way, you guys know the piano concerto of Andre Previn ? It is F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C . Although nothing can be compared to the beauty of his Violin Concerto "Anne-Sophie" . That's just pure beauty, of the first degree.