Drew Petersen Plays American Piano Works

Review by: David Hurwitz

Petersen

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

This excellent recital assembles music by five American composers, Griffes, Ives, Carter, Zaimont, and Barber, into a thoughtful program consisting of three major works and two shorter ones. First the small stuff. Ives’ The Alcotts is the least challenging movement of the Concord Sonata. While it would be great to have the complete work, this brief portrait receives a beautifully shaped, lyrical reading that justifies hearing it in isolation. It also works well in context, as a bridge between the larger works by Griffes and Carter.

Judith Lang Zaimont’s Attars consists of five brief vignettes named after fragrances, and the most interesting thing about them is their titles. I find music about things that music can’t possibly express especially tiresome, even when brief. I assume Petersen plays the music well, but have no desire to hear it again. You may feel differently.

There’s no question that Petersen has fully mastered the major works, which he has chosen wisely in order to offer a wide range of expressive idioms. Griffes’ Three Fantasy Pieces sound like slightly more muscular Debussy, and they are wholly lovely. Elliott Carter’s Sonata is a marvelous work, typically complex but not yet adopting the composer’s later, thornier harmonic idiom. Petersen flings himself at the thickets of notes with enthusiasm, sustaining a high level of intensity and engaging the attention throughout. It’s a very fine performance.

Barber’s single sonata is equally well done. Petersen’s tempos are generally slower than in Horowitz’s classic reading, but you could argue that the music benefits from the additional breathing room, especially in the concluding fugue. Certainly the quicker movements lack for nothing in terms of sheer excitement. Excellent sonics round out this thoroughly recommendable release.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this coupling

Music by Griffes, Ives, Carter, Zaimont, and Barber


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