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Grant Chu Covell
La Folia, November 2013

Oppens champions a program as varied as one could hope for. Winging It contains three notated improvisations…The piece I put first on my list is Chiaroscuro for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart. Beyond a multi-harmony Ivesian universe are uniquely expressive chromatic lines with in-between notes and charged clusters. I come back to this one for its ingenuity and luscious sound. © 2013 La Folia Read complete review



David DeBoor Canfield
Fanfare, November 2011

…a fascinating combination of tonal and atonal piano writing, clearly the product of an inventive musical mind.

…Ursula Oppens really whips it off in unbelievable fashion. Both pianists (Jerome Lowenthal joins Oppens in the two-piano works) are world-renowned, and certainly live up to their reputations in this CD.

This splendid disc should appeal to (1) fans of John Corigliano’s music; (2) lovers of contemporary piano music; (3) aficionados of Oppens and/or Lowenthal; (4) just about everyone else. If you find yourself in one of those groups, by all means pick this disc up at your first opportunity.



Scott Noriega
Fanfare, November 2011

It shows off Corigliano’s wonderful sense of color and sonority and his overall sense of the dramatic in terms of building a larger work out of smaller ones. It is a wonderful composition that should be heard and programmed more often than it is…this fabulous recital will inspire the performance of more of this music. We could ask for nothing more.




Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, November 2011

Çedille’s new CD of Corigliano’s piano music was an exciting discovery. Ranging from the 1959 romp for two pianos called Kaleidoscope, and the unsettled and poignant quarter-tone Chiaroscuro, to the premiere recording of the 2008 Winging It, three improvisations created for the brilliant Ursula Oppens, it shows the composer to be as adept at fashioning colorful, moving scores for keyboard as for large ensembles.



Jed Distler
Gramophone, October 2011

A desirable disc of Corigliano’s communicative piano music

John Corigliano’s relatively small yet deeply rewarding piano output is skillfully wrought, thoroughly idiomatic, inventive and communicative on every level, and it is not surprising that these works have found favour with pianists and audiences alike. Moreover, the music’s variety of mood, conception and time scale add up to a well-contrasted one-hour programme that, for whatever it’s worth in the age of digital downloads, ideally suits the compact-disc format.

Fortunately, longtime new music advocate Ursula Oppens is a seasoned, technically commanding and musically insightful virtuoso who goes beyond merely playing the notes. In the premiere recording of Winging It—essentially three notated improvisations—Oppens captures both the music’s extemporaneous sensibility and sudden dramatic peaks; listen to her crisp yet full-bodied staccato chords and giddy build-up of rapid alternating notes between hands in the final piece. In the composer’s more familiar Fantasia on an Ostinato (based on the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony), Oppens gives the cloudier textures a sharper melody/accompaniment than Emanuel Ax in his slightly faster yet more generalised account…the Etude Fantasy’s five continuous movements stand out for Oppens’s superb tonal control and unified tempo relationships…Jerome Lowenthal joins Oppens in the two piano works. It’s fun to hear the pair’s upbeat romp through Corigliano’s early student work Kaleidoscope, where the seeds of his mature style energetically intertwine with neo-classical Stravinsky-isms. The mature Corigliano’s colouristic palette particularly comes alive in Chiaroscuro, where two pianos are tuned a quarter-tone apart. The dissonant effects are meticulously gauged and balanced, not just in the score but also in the pianists’ caring performance. Perhaps they come off a tad heavy in comparison to the delicacy that Blair McMillen and Sachiko Kato evoke in the second movement, “Shadows”, yet Cedille’s warm, closely detailed sound ultimately takes top honours. Corigliano’s articulate, informative and refreshingly personable booklet-notes add further value to this most desirable release.



Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, September 2011

Five pieces for one and two pianos by John Corigliano. This release may be considered an upgrade over Andrew Russo’s well-played but less complete 2006 program on Black Box 1106 (N/D 2006), which duplicates some, but not all, of these pieces.

Winging It (2007-8), the program’s title piece, is new. These are three Corigliano “Improvisations for Piano” captured on a MIDI synthesizer and then “doctored” rhythmically by collaborator Mark Baechle to supply versions performable by Ms Oppens, to whom the piece is dedicated. There is a humorous march, a dreamy slow movement, and a rumbly finale—which, as it turns out, combine to make an entertaining virtuoso concert piece. This is its first recording.

Jerome Lowenthal joins Ms Oppens for Chiaroscuro (1997), the piece for two pianos tuned a quarter tone apart last heard on the Black Box release with Russo and collaborator Steven Heyman (N/D 2006). I mentioned in that review that performances of the work were sure to be few and far between owing to the tuning demands, but here’s another one. The clarity of the tuning seems even more vivid here for some reason. Both are well played and conceived.

1985’s Fantasia on an Ostinato has been recorded before in its version for piano solo, including Mr Russo on the Black Box release. The disposition of the repetitions of the patterns in the central section is left up to the performer, so performances may differ, particularly in length, though Russo and Oppens take about the same time. Both performances are suitably hallucinatory.

Kaleidoscope (1959), for two pianos, was written when Corigliano was a student at Columbia in Otto Luening’s composition class. Spirited and filled with youthful energy and Bernsteinian lyricism, the piece demonstrates once again what a precious talent Corigliano had as a young man.

The program closes with 1976’s Etude Fantasy, also recorded by Russo. This forbidding group of interrelated etudes has been well served on records; and, as would be expected, Oppens offers a formidable contribution.

This will likely be the standard reference for this repertoire for some time to come. Notes by the composer.



Byzantion
MusicWeb International, August 2011

This, perhaps surprisingly, is the first CD dedicated entirely to the piano works of American composer John Corigliano. The pieces in this recital by Ursula Oppens with Jerome Lowenthal cover fifty years, an amazing span in any case, but all the more so given the fact that Corigliano is still very much alive and composing! There are three sizeable works for solo piano and two shorter ones for two. All have been recorded before, usually a few times, apart from Winging It, which here receives its premiere.

The most strikingly original work on the disc is Chiaroscuro. The tuning alteration on one of the pianos allows Corigliano to open up a soundworld that is from another world, but there are many other dazzling effects and techniques besides. Corigliano says in his notes that the final section quotes a Bach chorale, but it sounds more like an American folksong. The other duo, Kaleidoscope, a “colorful mosaic of changing symmetrical patterns”, is a lively, occasionally rag-like student work.

The Fantasia on an Ostinato, a clever, partly performer-determined work based on the opening phrase of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, is one of Corigliano’s most recorded pieces, both for piano and in its orchestral arrangement. He calls it his “only experiment in ‘minimalist’ technique”, but such a definition does it a disservice—there are no lazy Reichisms here. The Etude Fantasy, a set of five separate Etudes arranged and linked to form a coherent musical statement, has also been recorded several times, most recently by Michael Shepard on Harmonia Mundi (HMU 907475, 2007). This is Corigliano’s most fiendish work for piano, and quite probably his best.

Finally, the title piece, Winging It, is a set of three ‘improvisations’, much easier to listen to than it is to follow Corigliano’s longwinded explanation in the notes of how they were created at the keyboard, MIDI recorded, transcribed, re-notated, edited and re-composed, with the results finally handed over to Oppens to first premiere in 2009, and then record here. The three items are not especially sensational or revelatory—with the first and last only three minutes long, they could hardly be that—but there is enough material to take the listener through to the end at least without discomfiture.

This recital is another feather in the cap for Ursula Oppens, who has devoted her very creditable career to championing the music of living composers, particularly Americans…Throughout this programme both Oppens and Lowenthal are equal in strength, stamina and technique to pianists half their age, and their duo playing—rehearsed countless times before in recordings and performance—is spectacular.

…this disc is beautifully recorded, and the CD booklet is just the way it ought to be, printed on high quality paper, thoughtfully and clearly laid out, with detailed notes on the works written by Corigliano himself, and plenty of biographical information on the soloists, even if the tone of all the writing can hardly be described as humble…there is at least an element of truth underpinning it. Corigliano’s piano music is not as important as his orchestral music by any measure—indeed, Corigliano admits to being no great pianist—but the works on this disc, especially as performed by Oppens and Lowenthal, show considerable art and craft, technique and originality.

As good as it is technically, at just under an hour the CD is a bit on the short side. Corigliano is not a prolific composer for the piano, but this is not all his music, despite the fact that his own website homepage labels it “Corigliano’s complete piano music” at the time of writing. Cedille might easily have asked Oppens and Lowenthal to record Corigliano’s 1972 Gazebo Dances, a 16 minute piece for four hands which has been recorded a few times, but not by this marvellous pair and not for nearly ten years. At 75 minutes, this would then have been an almost unassailably irresistible disc.



Tom Huizenga
The Washington Post, August 2011

…Oppens…unforced performances again prove that few pianists of any era can claim a hold on contemporary piano music as she does.



V. Vasan
Allmusic.com, July 2011

While the title of the CD might be Winging It, Ursula Oppens has clearly spent much time honing her craft as a brilliant performer of new music: here, the music of John Corigliano. This combination is an excellent match, and it makes for an exciting album. The crashing beginning of the title track is incredibly dynamic, and Oppens shows her fire, yet it gives way to quiet shortly after. Even during the melancholy, reflective second movement, Oppens is energized and plays brightly (with a bright recording quality to complement her playing). The final movement is a jazz-like chase between hands, with some interesting chords for good measure. Brief but absolutely novel, Chiarascuro for two pianos (with Jerome Lowenthal) demonstrates Corigliano’s innovative nature as a composer. It is fascinating to hear the quarter-tuned piano echo the regular one, be it in the distorted images in “Light” or in “Shadows.” It is a very impressionistic piece; that is, one gets impressions of moments that create moods, rather than a linear narrative throughout the work. Most surprising is a choral passage in the piece that establishes a vague sense of tonality for a moment. The quasi-minimalist Fantasia is more than mere repetition, for Oppens carefully phrases the repetitive patterns with care and tenderness. While the listener might be tempted to think Corigliano is all art music and novelty, he or she is greeted with a hint of ragtime here and there in the Kaleidoscope for two pianos. The album concludes with the moody Etude Fantasy, which explores a variety of emotions. Any skeptics of new music should give this album a try, for Corigliano has written fairly accessible work. Both Oppens and Corigliano are extremely skilled at shifting gears, and rapidly, and this makes the album quite an energizing experience for the listener.



Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle, June 2011

The distinctive quality in John Corigliano’s music is its fusion of hard-edged dissonance with a graceful lyricism that can sometimes border on schmaltz. That combination of flavors is everywhere in evidence in this handsome, strong-boned disc, which includes nearly everything Corigliano has written for the keyboard. The grand pianistic statement comes at the end, with the composer’s five-movement “Etude Fantasy.” It’s an arresting exploration of keyboard technique, and it gets a formidable performance from pianist Ursula Oppens, but it’s a bit self-consciously monumental for my taste. Far more interesting are “Chiaroscuro,” a beautiful and eloquent suite for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart to create a wealth of insinuating dissonances, and “Fantasia on an Ostinato,” which works modest but fascinating variations on elemental material. The title offering, in its world premiere recording, is a set of three of Corigliano’s piano improvisations, recorded and carefully transcribed; they’re pleasant enough, though the labor involved doesn’t seem quite worth the effort.



John von Rhein
The Classical Review, June 2011

The roll call of pianists who have recorded John Corigliano’s best-known solo piano work, the 1985 Fantasia on an Ostinato, is long and impressive: its numbers include Emanuel Ax, Helene Grimaud, David Alan Wehr, Nina Tichman, and David Jalbert. The formidable Etude Fantasy (1976) also has been committed to disc by Stephen Hough, James Tocco, Caroline Hong, and Jalbert.

What sets this new Cedille release apart, apart from the incisive performances of Ursula Oppens (and her colleague Jerome Lowenthal in the duo-piano pieces), is that this is the first recording to be devoted entirely to the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer’s solo and duo keyboard works. Had room been found to include Corigliano’s four-hand piano arrangement of his 1973 Gazebo Dances, Cedille could have billed the disc as “the complete Corigliano piano works” with (probable) impunity.

Not that anyone has cause for complaint, for all of what is included is worth hearing.

Oppens’ survey ranges chronologically from Kaleidoscope for two pianos (written in 1959 during Corigliano’s undergraduate years at New York’s Columbia University) to the album’s title work,
Winging It (2008), whose world premiere she gave in New York in 2009. The music attests to the evolution of the composer’s eclectic musical personality over nearly half a century. While Corigliano
claims no more than modest skills of his own at the keyboard, his writing for piano is superbly crafted, challenging to perform but accessible to listen to, ever eager to venture new coloristic, sonorous and expressive possibilities.

The title work, Winging It, receives its world premiere recording here. It is a triptych of improvisations Corigliano recorded privately in 2007 and 2008, and later notated. The first and third are highly rhythmic, toccata-like, made of chugging dissonant chords and jabbing gestures. The central improvisation is slower, more consonant, more lyrical. Nothing deep here, but the 13 minutes pass most agreeably.

More significant are the Etude Fantasy (Corigliano’s piano masterpiece, to my mind) and the Fantasia on an Ostinato. Oppens makes a tour de force of all five ingeniously plotted etudes, the first taking the left hand through all manner of digital gymnastics, the fourth being a study in wildly ornate ornamentation. Listen to how easily Oppens negotiates the fiendish hand-crossings of No. 3, a study in alternating fifths and thirds; throughout her performance she cedes nothing in virtuoso brilliance to Hough (on Hyperion) or Tocco (on Sony).

By the same token, Oppens strikes a convincing balance between improvisatory freedom and structural rigor in the Fantasia. Corigliano, of course, gives the performer considerable leeway to shape and lengthen his minimalist repetitions before revealing the source of the ostinato as the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Oppens doesn’t abuse the privilege, and her account is among the very best on disc, even given the stiff competition.

An interesting novelty item is Chiaroscuro, a triptych commissioned by the 1997 Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition in Miami that calls for two pianos pitched a quarter-tone apart. This kicks up weird mistunings Charles Ives and Henry Cowell never dreamed of in their own quarter-tone keyboard pieces. Incidentally, Corigliano’s claim that the third section, ‘Strobe’, “quotes a chorale by Bach” is erroneous: in fact, the quotation is that of The Old 100th, popularly known as the hymn Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow.

The brief Kaleidoscope is built on a lyrical idea that brings to mind (my mind, anyway) the ‘Make Our Garden Grow’ finale of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. An amiable trifle, played with as much dash and panache by Oppens and Lowenthal as they bring to the more serious Chiaroscuro. On the strength of this disc, I’d love to hear the remarkable Oppens having a go at the Corigliano Piano Concerto. Cedille, are you game?



Grego Applegate Edwards'
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, June 2011

John Corigliano has proven to us all that orchestrally and operatically he has a keen sense for the dramatic, a sharp ear for what sounds well together and how it might be developed. He has a strong sense of the past and utilizes it to breathe life into present-day concert music. I don’t suppose anyone would contest at this point that he is one of America’s leading living composers.

But what of his chamber music? We all know composer who have excelled with the gigantism of massed forces only to falter when simple resources are at his disposal. One or two listens to Winging It (Cedille 90000 123), a recital of his solo piano music beautifully played by Ursula Oppens, will dispel any doubts on that score.

First off, Corigliano’s piano pieces are written to sound well in the right hands. They all are very pianistic in conception. Second, Maestro Corigliano often engages with and channels composers/music of the past in these pieces. Either direct quotations or allusions to masters Stravinsky, Ives, Beethoven, and others are heard in many of the pieces. He transforms in each case the musical material to his own idiosyncratic ends. Third, and most importantly, the results are very personal, very original, and very challenging-rewarding to the musical ear of the listener.

All five pieces on the disk are magnificent examples of the pianistic arts. They are played with dynamic verve and soaring mastery by Ms. Oppens (joined ably by Jerome Lowenthal on the two-piano works). Here we have almost an embarrassment of musical riches. But who is complaining? This is a must-have for modern chamber classical buffs.



John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, June 2011

Although folks have been recording his music as much as ever, I hadn’t personally heard anything from John Corigliano (b. 1938) for a while; so it was nice to hear this new album of piano music from Cedille, played with care by the distinguished American pianist, Ursula Oppens. Corigliano, as you probably know, is an American composer, teacher, and Pulitzer Prizewinner, a music professor at Lehman College, City University of New York, who numbers among his more-famous pupils Avner Dorman, Scott Glasgow, Elliot Goldenthal, Edward Knight, John Mackey, Nico Muhly, David S. Sampson, and Eric Whitacre. While he has written most of his compositions for orchestra, the present disc contains several of his popular piano works and a world-premiere recording of the title piece.

The program begins with the first-ever recording of Winging It (2007–08). Playing on a Steinway, Ms. Oppens effortlessly captures the remarkable dynamic range of the music from loudest to softest passages. Corigliano based the three movements on improvisations he made, and he titled them with the dates he first played them. He explains in a booklet note the difficulty he had transcribing the improvs, which seems a contradiction when you think about it. I mean, if it’s written out, is it any longer an improvisation? But I quibble. The piece follows a traditional fast-slow-fast arrangement, with the slow movement most affecting and the others a bit clamorous.

Next up is Chiaroscuro for Two Pianos Tuned a Quarter Tone Apart (1997), also in three movements, these titled “Light,” “Shadows,” and “Strobe,” which Ms. Oppens performs with Jerome Lowenthal. Here, Corigliano says he was “looking for the expressive power between two notes, as a blues singer does.” The effect is often startling and always intriguing as the music explores the allocation of light and shade in the music.

Following Chiaroscuro comes Fantasia on an Ostinato (1985), a single, brief movement that develops, as the title suggests, a recurring melodic fragment. The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition commissioned it as a piece to be played by their twelve semifinalists, and Corigliano intended it to exercise each pianist’s imagination while working with something entirely new to them. It is quite the most-charming piece of music on the disc, and I wonder how Ms. Oppens would have scored in the competition. I would have given her an A.

After that is Kaleidoscope for Two Pianos (1959), again with Mr. Lowenthal accompanying Ms. Oppens. Corigliano calls it a “colorful mosaic of changing symmetrical patterns.” He wrote it while he was an undergraduate at Columbia University, and it is full of pleasantly youthful energy, which Ms. Oppens seems happy to exploit.

The album closes with Etude Fantasy (1976), five etudes, piano studies, beginning with a rather forward statement from the left hand only. Things settle down thereafter, although the work contains just about everything you can think of before it comes to a vociferous climax, then falling off into silence in a graceful, melodious ending.

Recorded in December, 2010, at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, the sound is most realistic. The miking seems perfectly judged to produce a piano tone that actually appears to be coming from a distance of the listener to the speakers, in my case about eight-to-ten feet. Clarity is outstanding without sacrificing nuance, warmth, or resonance. Impact is strong, and the piano size is lifelike rather than stretching across the room.




Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, June 2011

If you listen to the composer, it seems that nothing could be more erroneous than assuming John Corigliano’s life as a musician was a sure thing just because his father, John Sr., was Leonard Bernstein’s concertmaster with the New York Philharmonic and his mother Rose Buzen was a pianist and piano teacher. We learn a great deal from his notes to this superb disc of his fascinating piano music by two of the great current pianists of contemporary repertoire—Ursula Oppens and, in Corigliano’s two-piano pieces, Jerome Lowenthal. Neither parent wanted Corigliano to go into music. He had piano lessons with his mother, but “we fought and I quit.” Still, he loved to improvise on the piano which is where his vivid piece “Winging It” came from. “Chiaroscuro” is the damnedest thing—scored for two pianos tuned a quarter tone apart, as if Henry Cowell (and Charles Ives’ father) were looking over Corigliano’s score sheet. “Fantasia on an Ostinato” makes resonant “minimalist” use of the slow second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, “Kaleidoscope for two pianos is a student work and ”Etude Fantasy” is a bold 1876 display piece calling for most of the resources a pianist has, all of which Oppens has in abundance.



Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR
Musical America, May 2011

Pianist Ursula Oppens performs the world-premiere recording of John Corigliano’s “Winging It,” an improvisation-based work written expressly for her, on a new CD devoted to piano music of the widely admired American composer.

“Winging It: Piano Music of John Corigliano” includes a selection of Corigliano’s solo works and both of his two-piano works. For the latter, Ms. Oppens is joined by her longtime collaborator Jerome Lowenthal (Cedille Records CDR 90000 123).

The album “Winging It,” available May 31, spans the composer’s career from his undergraduate days at Columbia University to the present. Besides the title work, written in 2008, the CD includes “Chiaroscuro” for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart (1997), “Fantasia on an Ostinato” (1985), “Kaleidoscope” for two pianos (1959), and “Etude Fantasy” (1976).

Corigliano wrote the CD booklet’s program notes, which provide authoritative and enjoyably candid discussions of the origins of the works and the development of his musical ideas.

In his notes for his “Winging It,” Corigliano discusses the difficulties inherent in translating complex improvisations into a playable score. Corigliano writes that he’s enjoyed improvising at the piano since childhood. For “Winging It,” he initially improvised on an electronic keyboard and MIDI sequencer, which captures the sounds and “a crude but accurate notation of what is played.” His assistant Mark Baechle reviewed the materials to “figure out how to put it into measures that made sense.” A back-and-forth collaboration continued until the written piece matched the recorded sounds. The work’s three movements are named for the dates Corigliano first played them. Oppens gave the premiere on May 5, 2009, at Symphony Space in New York City.

The boldly inventive “Chiaroscuro” was commissioned for the 1997 biennial Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition as a test piece for the event. At the outset, Corigliano found himself in an intriguing quandary. “I had composed one previous work for two pianos…and couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to say in that medium. I couldn’t see what made a second piano so important.” His inspiration was “to change totally the concept of two pianos by ‘preparing’ one of them”—but not by inserting objects between the strings. One piano would be tuned a quarter-tone lower than the other, “creating eerie effects and dissonances when the instruments were played together.” Corigliano says, “I wanted to use quarter-tone music expressively, as well as to make it a startling device.” “Chiaroscuro” takes its name from the visual arts term for using light and shade to create an illusion of depth or other dramatic effect. It was premiered at the Miami, Fla., competition by winners Anne Louise and Edward Turgeon on December 21, 1997.

Corigliano wrote “Fantasia on an Ostinato,” his “only experiment in ‘minimalist’ technique,” for the seventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He felt the world could do without another technical showpiece. Instead, he decided to “investigate the performers’ imagination and musicality,” challenging their ability to create rather than merely play what’s on the page. The central section is a series of interlocking repeated patterns. “The performer decided the number and, to a certain extent, the character of these repetitions. In other words, the shape was his/hers to build,” the composer writes. It was first performed by Barry Douglas on May 24, 1985, at the Fort Worth, Tex., competition.

Corigliano’s first and only other two-piano work is the youthful, high-spirited “Kaleidoscope,” which projects a changing mosaic of colorful patterns. It’s a single-movement work in three parts, with “an extended lyrical center that treats a folk-like melody to a variety of contrapuntal elaborations.” A product of Corigliano’s student years at Columbia (1955-59), it began as a project in Otto Luening’s composition class and is dedicated to Luening and composer Marc Bucci. Pianists Morey Ritt and Stanley Hollingsworth gave the world premiere June 28, 1961, at the Festival of the Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.

“Etude Fantasy” takes the listener on an excursion through studies in left-hand scoring, contrapuntal clarity, a two-note figure, ornamentation, and melody. Corigliano describes the piece as “a set of five studies combined into the episodic form and character of a fantasy.” The first etude, “For the Left Hand Alone,” has as its basis a six-note row and a “melodic germ” that come together at its climax. The second etude is a study in legato playing, with a constant crossing of contrapuntal lines to provide melodic interest. “Fifths to Thirds” is study on a two-note figure, “a fleet development on the simple pattern of a fifth (fingers one and five) contracting to a third (fingers two and four).” Etude No. 4 invokes trills, grace notes, tremolos, glissandos, and roulades. The final etude requires the player “to isolate the melodic line, projecting it through a filigree that surrounds it.” James Tocco gave the premiere October 9, 1976, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.




David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, May 2011

John Corigliano is such an accomplished orchestrator that you might be surprised at how well his piano music sounds. The truth is, he simply has a gift for finding brilliant sonorities no matter what instrument he happens to be writing for. He uses the full range of the piano, often turning to extremes of register, but always to good musical and expressive purpose. The works here are highly varied in style and conception, but are invariably enjoyable.

Winging It, subtitled “Improvisations for Piano”, is exactly what the name implies: three improvisations captured in real time and then subsequently notated. Chiaroscuro requires two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart, but it never sounds gratuitously dissonant—there’s that feeling for sonority again. Fantasia on an Ostinato, based on the famous Allegretto of Beethoven’s Seventh, is one of Corigliano’s best-known pieces. Kaleidoscope, also for two pianos, is an early jeu d’esprit, while the Etude Fantasy never lets the didactic element get in the way of musical enjoyment.

The performances here are pretty stupendous. Ursula Oppens takes all the solos, and she’s joined by Jerome Lowenthal in the duo pieces. Her playing is spirited, subtle, colorful, and wholly winning. She conveys the freedom of the improvisations in Winging It and chooses an excellent timing for the optional repetitions in the Fantasia on an Ostinato (it lasts a bit more than 11 minutes). In Chiaroscuro, careful attention to balance and dynamics reveals the wonderful colors of this evocative score. The beautifully calibrated engineering, brilliant but never harsh or brittle, helps immeasurably. A disc to treasure.






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