Acclaimed pianist Gloria Cheng performs world premiere recordings of works by three leading contemporary composers, Witold Lutoslawski, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Steven Stucky. American composer Steven Stucky’s “Four Album Leaves” and “Three Little Variations for David” are his first fully realized piano pieces written since his childhood. Cheng performs three works by the Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen. She premieres “Three Preludes”, and also performs “Dichotomie”, which was specially written for her and “Yta II” which explores the subtleties of the piano, as well as the virtuosity of the musician playing it. Witold Lutoslawski wrote his piano sonata in 1934 while he was still a composition student at the Warsaw Conservatory but the work was never published during his lifetime. Gloria Cheng’s premiere recording is based on a combination of three sources: the PWM edition, a photocopy of a manuscript of the sonata written in the hand of the composer’s late wife, Danuta, and detailed discussions with Charles Bodman Rae, a leading expert on Lutoslawski’s music.
“All three composers have so far written relatively little for solo piano: indeed, Steven Stucky's two brief sets of pieces, attractive if stylistically anonymous, are distinctly minor works. The Salonen pieces cover the greater part of his composing – from the Boulezian clar- ity of Yta II (1985) to the Dutilleux-like poise of Three Preludes (2005); though it is only the Ligetian duality of Dichotomie (2000), the stark discontinuity of 'Mécanisme' vividly complemented by the gradual accumulation of 'Organisme', that stands out as a notable addition to the contemporary repertoire. Much the most important item here is Lutospawski's Piano Sonata (1934). His earliest surviving major work, it remained unpublished until after his death and is only now receiving its first recording. Perhaps Lutospawski's rapidly evolving idiom led him to doubt the authenticity of a piece influenced by Ravel and, to a lesser degree, Debussy and Fauré; yet the control of momentum in the opening Allegro and the understated eloquence of the Andante unfold with no mean formal mastery, and if the finale's attempt at apotheosis is at all self-conscious, the winding-down of its coda is effortlessly achieved. Cheng dispatches it with sensitivity and insight (as she does this collection as a whole), and one can only echo Stucky as to the timeliness of this recording. Clear, well balanced sound and a disc that no one interested in modern piano music should pass over.”
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