- Fantasia (Variations), for piano, Op. 25
This release by the unjustifiably unheralded American pianist Lori Sims, a professor at Western Michigan University, brings together pieces that share two characteristics. First, all but one flirt with serial technique. And second, they start at the level of pianistic showpiece and go up from there. Samuel Barber's "Piano Sonata in E flat minor, Op. 26," is one of the most difficult of all works of American piano music, and Sims' competition here comes from the likes of Marc-André Hamelin, John Browning, and the work's first performer, Vladimir Horowitz. It is to her considerable credit that she does not come up short; if the final fugue has a somewhat light touch, the opening Allegro energico has perhaps unparalleled ferocity. The abrupt idiom of Copland's "Piano Variations," the young composer's ambitious masterpiece, is precisely rendered; the variations are continuous, but the entire structure, developing from a chromatic cell that clearly bespeaks Copland's acquaintance with serialist currents, emerges clearly in Sims' hands. The other two works might not yet merit the "classics" label, but the "Fantasia (Variations), Op. 25," by Ben Weber, the first American serialist, is a neglected work that follows quite closely on Copland's accomplishment. Though delving into serialism, it is strongly Romantic in conception, and Sims switches gears effectively for the less stringent middle of the program, which also includes the Impressionist "Roman Sketches, Op. 7," of Charles Tomlinson Griffes. The program as a whole is difficult for the listener as well as for the pianist, but Sims leads her audience through it in a masterful way. She is aided by fine engineering from South Africa's small TwoPianists label; the album was recorded in a university recital hall in South Africa. Support for recitals of this kind has not been abundant in the U.S. or even in Europe, and it is encouraging to see it spring up in a place far from those musical centers. The graphics for the album also merit mention; the close-up, startlingly intimate portraits of the artist suit the material well.
|Label:||Two Pianists Records|