Jacob Greenberg: Neo​/​Classic.

by Jacob Greenberg

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about

The Classic era of the late 1700s: an age of invention, changing social structures, and balance, simplicity, and order in the secular arts.

Neoclassic music: a rejection of opulence and indulgence in sound, and an orientation towards form, transparency, and concision. Its freshness often has a startling impact.

Maurice Ravel’s Menuet sur le nom d’Haydn is a gauzy valentine which uses the musical notes of the great composer’s name to make an antique, miniature tribute.

Haydn’s charming two-movement D-major sonata is about omissions: what’s implied in a rest and not stated, and a harmonic resolution which coyly delays to the very end of a movement.

Elliott Carter’s 90+ is a birthday tribute to the composer Goffredo Petrassi: ninety regular, accented pulses in a constantly changing context, with a few more notes to wish his friend more happy returns. Carter’s three-dimensional counterpoint of lines and shifting tempos shows an unusual concentration of character, and refinement of complex ideas.

A wildly contrasting two-scene drama, Mozart’s little-heard Fantasy and Fugue in C follows uninhibited extravagance with a dignified theme, thoughtfully examined.

Haydn’s three-movement b-minor sonata begins with austere pomp, followed by an amiable minuet (with some interrupting bluster), and finishing with a furious dervish.

A new contract with Brunswick Records was the occasion for Stravinsky’s Serenade in A, whose four movements each fit on one side of a 78 RPM record. Starting with a riff on Chopin, it explores a minuet and a perpetual motion before embracing sweet nostalgia.

Phyllis Chen’s grandfather, a Chinese calligrapher, reduced his art down to pure essentials. His Classicism was about expressive precision. The curving phrases in SumiTones, a commission heard in its premiere recording, use printed noteheads in shades of grey and black. The dreamy piece is a meditation on the dance between brush and paper.

An operatic comic aria by Gluck about common folk inspired variations by Mozart. They transform the original’s humor into something more florid, yet always down-to-earth. First improvised in concert by the composer with Gluck in attendance, they were later crafted into one of Mozart’s biggest and most charming sets of keyboard variations.

credits

released November 15, 2019

All works recorded at Oktaven Audio, Mount Vernon, NY, between October 2017 and August 2019, Steinway piano

Editions: Durand (Ravel), Wiener Urtext (Haydn D major), G. Henle Verlag (Haydn b minor and Mozart), Boosey and Hawkes (Carter, Stravinsky ed. Soulima Stravinsky), Memoirist Publishing (Chen)

Produced by Jacob Greenberg

Recording Engineer, Session Producer: Ryan Streber, oktavenaudio.com

Digital Editing, Mixing, Mastering: Ryan Streber

Assistant Editors: Edwin Huet, Charles Mueller

Design: Jessica Slaven, jessicaslaven.com

Special thanks to Hinda Greenberg, David Greenberg, and the New York Foundation for the Arts

This recording is for Judy Waterman

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New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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