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Roger Helps, John Adams, Todd Brief, Roger Sessions

Roger Helps, John Adams, Todd Brief, Roger Sessions

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A sonata by Roger Sessions, pieces by Todd Brief, Robert Helps, and John Adams: a thread connects this recital of American piano music written over the past half century or so. Each piece exemplifies a distinctly American treatment of a traditional form or style of composing for the piano. The Sessions sonata is a one-movement work whose infrastructure reveals a three-movement sonata format that Haydn himself might recognize. Robert Helps uses the theme-and-variations form to pay homage to Fauré’s lustrous chromaticism. John Adams’s two minimalist studies recall the toccata, one of the oldest styles for exploiting the keyboard’s capacity for demonstrating varieties of touch, texture, and speed. In Nightsong, which Todd Brief began by improvising at the piano, the composer reminds us of the historic link between composers like J.S. Bach and Chopin, virtuosos who like to improvise at the keyboard, and jazz composers, whose performances consist almost entirely of virtuoso improvisation.

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