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Vivien Schweitzer
The New York Times, December 2011

performed expressively and with dexterous flair by Laura Melton… © 2011 The New York Times Read complete review

Donald Rosenberg
Gramophone, September 2011

Inventive piano music by a Grawemeyer Award-winning American composer

Each of the solo piano works on this recording of music by Sebastian Currier is a feast for performer and listener alike. The American composer writes in a style that is at once accessible and piquant, clearly structured yet full of fantasy. Currier has an uncommon knack for moulding works of vital expressive content.

The repertoire spans nearly two decades, revealing Currier’s debts to previous masters but also his distinctive way of rendering material his own. The earliest work, from 1988, is the Piano Sonata, a five-movement score of vibrant design whose rhythmic vivacity and thematic unfoldings are matched by an atmospheric sense of sonority. Currier’s command of counterpoint shows his devotion to Bach. From 2007 is the six-movement Departures and Arrivals, which lives up to its title in the way the thematic images evolve throughout the score. The metamorphoses are subtly achieved, with many cross references and tweaks that add fresh resonance to the original ideas. Scarlatti Cadences and Brainstorm are shorter works from the 1990s, the former a vigorous contemporary spin on the Baroque composer’s style and the latter a dynamic study in myriad harmonic worlds.

Currier’s piano music requires the services of an artist who can tame formidable technical beasts and bring colourful delineation to a multiplicity of moods and textures. Laura Melton is just such a musician. Her performances are crisply articulate, rich in contrasting hues and attentive to the panoply of significant gestures that make Currier a composer of notable inventiveness and magnetism.

MusicWeb International, June 2011

American composer Sebastian Currier has made only one fleeting appearance so far in these pages, with his trio Verge...That work was warmly received, and so are the piano works on this latest release under Naxos’s enigmatic “American Classics” series, which now has so many items—getting on for 400—it is virtually a label in its own right.

The two short pieces, Scarlatti Cadences and Brainstorm, were both written around the same time, and though quite different on more than one level, share a common thread, that of “combining of diverse, even opposing harmonic materials”, in Currier’s words. The first is an alternately serene and frantic piece, a kind of mid-20th century Scarlatti, whereas Brainstorm lives up to its title as a pulsating, generally chromatic scherzo that almost reaches self-combustion towards the end.

By contrast, Departures and Arrivals is a much more sedate work. The title has nothing to do with airports or railway stations: according to Currier, each of the six movements is in fact “an alternative path that starts with the same material”, more literally in the case of the first three, abstractly in the last three. In other words, Departures and Arrivals is tantamount to six different versions of the same piece, reflecting Currier’s interest in a kind of musical ‘butterfly effect’—what would have followed if such and such a decision (note/chord/sequence etc) had been taken instead of the one actually written down. If all that sounds like an academic exercise, perhaps there is an element of desiccation to the result, but after all, as Currier points out, “this is like the actual process of composing where the first idea one thinks of is not necessarily the first idea one ultimately hears”, and as such is a valid and intriguing artistic endeavour. The common material ensures that the pieces cohere as a work, and although Departures and Arrivals is not likely to surge into anyone’s top ten favourite piano works, there is plenty to sustain the interest over twenty minutes, particularly in the last three sections.

The finest work on the disc is Currier’s five-movement Piano Sonata, which he wrote while still a Juilliard student, and it is to date his only one in that genre—in fact he has not written a work for solo piano since 1999. The basic pattern is fast-slow-fast-slow-fast, and the overall feel that of a sonata from the middle decades of the 20th century—in other words, though not tonal in the traditional sense, nor is it especially modernistic or ‘difficult’. Without diminishing their value, the first four movements are in a way entrées to the main fare, which is the chromatic, finger-breaking final movement, amusingly marked ‘Multifarious’, a set of variations with a couple of fugues thrown in for good measure.

Laura Melton, piano professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, has further experience of Currier’s music, having recorded his works for piano and violin with Yehonatan Berick on Albany Records (as yet apparently unreleased). In any case, she makes light of the difficulties present even in the earlyish Piano Sonata to deliver a convincing interpretation of this music. Sound quality is very good. The CD booklet, for reasons best known to Naxos, does not give any biographical information about Currier beyond the desultory blurb on the back inlay.

Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle, May 2011

The nature of Sebastian Currier’s piano music—ebullient, choreographic and wonderfully inventive—announces itself from the first measures of the 1988 Piano Sonata that opens this beguiling disc. The writing is densely packed into the keyboard (Prokofiev is the obvious model), but crisp melodic themes and rhythmic interplay register clearly through the busy textures. And the more you listen, the more engrossing the effect becomes. In a series of splendid performances, pianist Laura Melton brings out all the rambunctious finesse of the five-movement sonata and the thoughtful, intricately cross-referenced “Departures and Arrivals.” Currier deftly walks a line between dry neo-Classicism and a more explosively messy emotional palette, and Melton traces it well. The disc concludes in a burst of witty high spirits, with “Scarlatti Cadences”—pressing the old master’s distinctive formulas into service in new ways—and the hyperactive “Brainstorm.”, April 2011

The piano is front and center on the new Naxos CD of music by Sebastian Currier, and the playing by Laura Melton is very fine. …Currier draws considerable inspiration from classical models, but is by no means slavishly devoted to them. Scarlatti Cadences (1996), for example, is inspired by that composer’s famous 18th-century harpsichord sonatas but certainly does not sound like them. Currier’s 1988 Piano Sonata draws on Bach, Beethoven and even Hindemith, but again interprets (or manages) their influences loosely. Departures and Arrivals (2007) is something of a navel-gazing exercise, as Currier spends 20 minutes accepting, discarding and modifying various forms of composition. The most straightforwardly enjoyable work here is also the shortest, at four-and-a-half minutes: Brainstorm (1994), which sounds as you would expect from its title and includes a feeling of light satire and deviltry.

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