Beethoven Piano Sonatas, Michael Arnowitt's most recent recording, is his first of an anticipated series of several CDs devoted to the music of Beethoven. Back in 1989, Michael Arnowitt began his novel, 26-year long odyssey to present in a series of eight live concerts the complete piano sonatas of Beethoven, traversing the sonatas chronologically but matching up precisely his age as he performs the various sonatas with Beethoven's age as Beethoven composed them.
The project began in 1989 with a youthful Arnowitt and Beethoven's spirited early sonatas (the fourth of which, op. 7, is featured on this recording). As he ages, Michael Arnowitt is gradually tackling Beethoven's middle-period works, then the late, transcendent final sonatas, scheduled for performance not until the year 2015.
In many ways the series of eight concerts will be a study in the psychology of aging: audiences hear how Beethoven developed as a composer, how Arnowitt develops as a pianist, and the intersection of the two processes.
Beethoven Piano Sonatas features the op. 28 "Pastoral" Sonata and the Sonata op. 7 in Eb major, 62 minutes of music recorded in the outstanding acoustics of Toronto's Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The recording includes a booklet with Michael Arnowitt's reflections on Beethoven's stylistic evolution and the sonatas on the CD, plus cover art by Joy Spontak, a recent (1995) work related to the feel of the "Pastoral" Sonata.
Constellation is a well-received 1989 recording by Michael Arnowitt featuring fugues and fugue-related music of Bach, Shostakovitch, Mozart, Milhaud, and Messiaen. Featured works include his own piano transcriptions of Darius Milhaud's classic 1923 ballet The Creation of the World and the finale to Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony.
The title Constellation, evoking the patterns we see in the stars, makes reference to the diverse ways the eight selections on the recording are interconnected; on another level the individual fugues themselves are also composed of interconnected strands. The cover painting, original art-work of Philip Hagopian, is a striking image of the strings of a piano becoming gradually intertwined, ascending, and eventually blending into the constellations of the night sky.
The London-based Penguin Guide to Compact Discs gave the recording its highest rating, calling it "a tour de force of brilliant pianism ... splendidly lucid and responsive performances ... full of colour and atmosphere and rhythmically riveting." 61 minutes of music with extensive program notes by Michael Arnowitt.
Alive and Well is Michael Arnowitt's fascinating 1990 recording presenting the piano music of ten Vermont composers from throughout the state. Compositions of Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, Gilles Yves Bonneau, Stan Charkey, Jim Grant, Bruce Hobson, Thomas L. Read, Allen Shawn, Ernie Stires, Nicholas Thorne, and Gwyneth Walker showcase the kaleidoscopic variety and high quality of music being written in the Green Mountain State.
Recorded in an historic all-wood church in Plymouth, Vermont, Alive and Well contains 72 minutes of music, liner notes by the composers, and an essay by Michael Arnowitt about the program as a whole.
You may also be interested in Classical/Jazz, a recording by Michael Arnowitt on the Musical Heritage Society label. Classical/Jazz is a unique program of jazz-influenced classical works and classically-influenced jazz tunes, exploring the mutual influence of these two fields throughout the twentieth century. Recommended by L.A. Jazz Scene, the recording features music of Copland, Ravel, Milhaud, Rzewski, Stravinsky, Albright, Tatum, Thielemans, and Holland.
The all-digital recording contains 65 minutes of music and is available in CD (catalog #512994 Z) and cassette (catalog # 312994 H) formats from the Musical Heritage Society, telephone number +1-508-931-7003.
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