The art of the solo piano
The Viennese-born Ernest Krenek wrote some of the most distinctive string quartets of the 20th century, yet his music for piano is equally accomplished, and arguably more accessible on some levels. This new release from Phoenix Edition features a half dozen of the composer’s solo works for piano. Dating from the late 1920s to 1958, they reflect his wide and eclectic assimilation of influences, albeit filtered through Krenek’s unique aesthetic. The Five Piano Pieces and Second Sonata were composed in 1926 and 1928 respectively, and are the most traditional-sounding, bearing the impress of jazz and neo-romanticism. The Second Sonata appeared in 1948, and reflects a more radical structure and harmonic development, in addition to spikier, more challenging tonalities. The George Washington Variations represent a startling stylistic about face. Using an anonymous military march as a point of departure, the results are spirited and surprisingly complex, if a little dull. Echoes from Austria is a suite of seven brief vignettes based on folk tunes in which Krenek’s modernist leanings are hidden under the music’s bright, brittle charm. All of the pieces are exquisitely performed by Mikhail Korzhev, who proves to be one of Krenek’s most sensitive interpreters.
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