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Winging It: Piano Music of John Corigliano / Oppens

> Winging It - I. 12/28/07
> Winging It - II. 1/3/08
> Winging It - III. 6/7/08
> Chiaroscuro - I. Light
> Chiaroscuro - II. Shadows
> Chiaroscuro - III. Strobe
> Fantasia on an Ostinato - Fantasia on an Ostinato
> Kaleidoscope - Kaleidoscope
> Etude Fantasy - No. 1. For the Left Hand Alone
> Etude Fantasy - No. 2. Legato
> Etude Fantasy - No. 3. Fifths to Thirds
> Etude Fantasy - No. 4. Ornaments
> Etude Fantasy - No. 5. Melody

Album Summary

>Corigliano, John : Winging It, improvisations for piano
>Corigliano, John : Chiarascuro, for 2 pianos
>Corigliano, John : Fantasia on an Ostinato, for piano
>Corigliano, John : Kaleidoscope, for 2 pianos
>Corigliano, John : Etude Fantasy
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Winner of an Academy Award, four Grammy Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize, American composer John Corigliano (b.1938) has written more than 100 scores. His new CD of piano music includes the premiere recoding of Winging It (2008), an improvisation-based piece written for and premiered in concert by American pianist Ursula Oppens. In the boldly inventive Chiaroscuro (1997), the pianos are tuned a quarter-tone apart; their altered states produce other-worldly results. Other works on the recording: Fantasia on an Ostinato (1985), an "experiment in 'minimalist' technique", the youthful, high-spirited Kaleidoscope (1959) projecting a changing mosaic of colorful patterns, and Etude Fantasy (1976) with intriguing studies in left-hand scoring, contrapuntal clarity, ornamentation, and melody.

All Music Guide - V. Vasan
While the title of the CD might be Winging It, Ursula Oppens has clearly spent much time honing her craft as a brilliant performer of new music: here, the music of John Corigliano. This combination is an excellent match, and it makes for an exciting album.

The crashing beginning of the title track is incredibly dynamic, and Oppens shows her fire, yet it gives way to quiet shortly after. Even during the melancholy, reflective second movement, Oppens is energized and plays brightly (with a bright recording quality to complement her playing). The final movement is a jazz-like chase between hands, with some interesting chords for good measure. Brief but absolutely novel, Chiarascuro for two pianos (with Jerome Lowenthal) demonstrates Corigliano's innovative nature as a composer. It is fascinating to hear the quarter-tuned piano echo the regular one, be it in the distorted images in "Light" or in "Shadows." It is a very impressionistic piece; that is, one gets impressions of moments that create moods, rather than a linear narrative throughout the work. Most surprising is a choral passage in the piece that establishes a vague sense of tonality for a moment.

The quasi-minimalist Fantasia is more than mere repetition, for Oppens carefully phrases the repetitive patterns with care and tenderness. While the listener might be tempted to think Corigliano is all art music and novelty, he or she is greeted with a hint of ragtime here and there in the Kaleidoscope for two pianos. The album concludes with the moody Etude Fantasy, which explores a variety of emotions. Any skeptics of new music should give this album a try, for Corigliano has written fairly accessible work. Both Oppens and Corigliano are extremely skilled at shifting gears, and rapidly, and this makes the album quite an energizing experience for the listener.

The WholeNote
Pianist and pedagogue Jerome Lowenthal joins Oppens in works for two pianos ... in the early Fantasia (1959) Corigliano emerges as an Ivesian proto-Magic Realist, already with his own remarkable technique and colour-palette well established.

Gramophone
John Corigliano's relatively small yet deeply rewarding piano output is skillfully wrought, thoroughly idiomatic, inventive and communicative on every level, and it is not surprising that these works have found favour with pianists and audiences alike. Moreover, the music's variety of mood, conception and time scale add up to a well-contrasted one-hour programme that, for whatever it's worth in the age of digital downloads, ideally suits the compact-disc format.

Fanfare
It shows off Corigliano's wonderful sense of color and sonority and his overall sense of the dramatic in terms of building a larger work out of smaller ones. It is a wonderful composition that should be heard and programmed more often than it is... this fabulous recital will inspire the performance of more of this music. We could ask for nothing more.

Fanfare
Çedille's new CD of Corigliano's piano music was an exciting discovery. Ranging from the 1959 romp for two pianos called Kaleidoscope, and the unsettled and poignant quarter-tone Chiaroscuro, to the premiere recording of the 2008 Winging It, three improvisations created for the brilliant Ursula Oppens, it shows the composer to be as adept at fashioning colorful, moving scores for keyboard as for large ensembles.

American Record Guide
Jerome Lowenthal joins Ms Oppens for Chiaroscuro (1997), the piece for two pianos tuned a quarter tone apart last heard on the Black Box release with Russo and collaborator Steven Heyman (N/D 2006). I mentioned in that review that performances of the work were sure to be few and far between owing to the tuning demands, but here's another one. The clarity of the tuning seems even more vivid here for some reason. Both are well played and conceived.

MusicWeb International
... this disc is beautifully recorded, and the CD booklet is just the way it ought to be, printed on high quality paper, thoughtfully and clearly laid out, with detailed notes on the works written by Corigliano himself, and plenty of biographical information on the soloists, even if the tone of all the writing can hardly be described as humble... there is at least an element of truth underpinning it. Corigliano's piano music is not as important as his orchestral music by any measure - indeed, Corigliano admits to being no great pianist - but the works on this disc, especially as performed by Oppens and Lowenthal, show considerable art and craft, technique and originality.

As good as it is technically, at just under an hour the CD is a bit on the short side. Corigliano is not a prolific composer for the piano, but this is not all his music, despite the fact that his own website homepage labels it "Corigliano's complete piano music" at the time of writing. Cedille might easily have asked Oppens and Lowenthal to record Corigliano's 1972 Gazebo Dances, a 16 minute piece for four hands which has been recorded a few times, but not by this marvellous pair and not for nearly ten years. At 75 minutes, this would then have been an almost unassailably irresistible disc.

The Washington Post
... Oppens... unforced performances again prove that few pianists of any era can claim a hold on contemporary piano music as she does.

ClassicsToday.com
The performances here are pretty stupendous. Ursula Oppens takes all the solos, and she's joined by Jerome Lowenthal in the duo pieces. Her playing is spirited, subtle, colorful, and wholly winning. She conveys the freedom of the improvisations in Winging It and chooses an excellent timing for the optional repetitions in the Fantasia on an Ostinato (it lasts a bit more than 11 minutes). In Chiaroscuro, careful attention to balance and dynamics reveals the wonderful colors of this evocative score. The beautifully calibrated engineering, brilliant but never harsh or brittle, helps immeasurably. A disc to treasure.

Musical America
Pianist Ursula Oppens performs the world-premiere recording of John Corigliano's "Winging It," an improvisation-based work written expressly for her, on a new CD devoted to piano music of the widely admired American composer.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (12/07/2010-12/10/2010).



Reviews

New and Old from Corigliano
For all his contributions to the opera, orchestral, chamber and vocal literature, Corigliano's catalogue of piano music remains rather slim. In fact, the complete piano works to date are contained on this new Cedille CD. The pieces here date from 1959 through 2008 and they show both the consistency if imagination and the development of compositional voice. Winging It, the most recent composition is a set of three short improvisations for piano. They are, by turns lyrical, propulsive and craggy. The most interesting set on this disc is Chiaroscuro for two pianos, one of which is tuned a quarter tone lower than the other. While the quarter tone is not uncommon in string writing, it is rare for the piano, and in this case, produces some wonderful and fascinating sound; a shadow or aura around the tone, making it vibrate in compelling and unexpected ways. The Fantasia on an Ostinato from 1985 creates an opportunity for the performer to shape the piece by selecting from a set of interlocking, repeated patterns. The theme from the second movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony forms the basis of much of the piece. Ursula Oppens, justly famous for her advocacy of contemporary American composers, most notably Elliott Carter turns in clear, committed performances, and is ably partnered in the two-piano works by Jerome Lowenthal. Recommended
Submitted on 06/24/11 by DPost 
Corigliano's piano works in stunning performances
John Corigliano has been one of America's greatest and best known composers for many years now. Most people are familiar with his large scale works, such as the "Symphony #1", the "Clarinet Concerto", "The Ghosts of Versailles" or maybe his few, but emblematic, film scores, such as "The Red Violin" We do not get to hear his smaller works, especially his output for solo or duo pianos, as often. Here is a wonderful collection that illustrates both his complete mastery as a composer in all genres as well as performances that are wonderful and convincing. Ursula Oppens is an amazing performer with a long list of recordings and repertoire in her accomplishments, especially illustrating her understanding of contemporary music. She is joined on this recording by the equally accomplished Jerome Lowenthal in the two piano works, "Chiaroscuro" and "Kaleidoscope". Every piece on this disc contains the qualities that I love in Corigliano's music. It is intense, dramatic, almost frightening in places; lyrical and placidly beautiful in others. For me, the two most captivating pieces on the program are the first two. "Winging It" is essentially a three movement work based on three improvisations created, then notated with the help of technology and colleague Mark Baechle. The improvisations, created over a six month period, were realized and premiered as "Winging It" at their NY premiere in 2009, with Ms. Oppens. They are tremendous to listen to and outrageously difficult to play. The other standout on this disc is "Chiaroscuro" for two pianos tuned a quarter tone apart. The title, a referenced to the use of shadow and light (from the Italian) in visual art serves as a perfect metaphor for the eery, unsettling effect that the quarter tone tunings have on melody and harmony. Chords and tonal centers get obscured, confounded. Melodies get "unsettled" The effect of the piece is made more haunting through the quoting of the standard hymn "Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow" Corigliano has often made use of religious, familiar melody in strange, nightmarish settings (See "Altered States") The other works on this marvelous album re well worth hearing, too. "Fantasia on an Ostinato" also makes some amazing use of pyrotechnics and quotations from Beethoven in a macabre way. "Kaleidoscope" shows off both the technical as well as lyrical capacity of Jerome Lowenthal along with Ursula Oppens and the "Etude Fantasy" is an impressive showpiece including an opening movement for left hand only that provides moments of excitement and reflection. I strongly recommend this disc to anyone who admires John Corigliano and needs to hear another side of this amazing composer and also to anyone who wants to hear an gifted American virtuoso pianist who cleary understands modern music and can bring out the widest range of emotions in anything!
Submitted on 06/27/11 by Dan Coombs 
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Works Details

>Corigliano, John : Winging It, improvisations for piano
  • Performer: Ursula Oppens (Piano)
  • Notes: American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (12/07/2010-12/10/2010)
  • Running Time: 13 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2008

>Corigliano, John : Chiarascuro, for 2 pianos
  • Performers: Jerome Lowenthal (Piano); Ursula Oppens (Piano)
  • Notes: American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (12/07/2010-12/10/2010)
  • Running Time: 10 min. 26 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1997

>Corigliano, John : Fantasia on an Ostinato, for piano
  • Performer: Ursula Oppens (Piano)
  • Notes: American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (12/07/2010-12/10/2010)
  • Running Time: 11 min. 34 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1985

>Corigliano, John : Kaleidoscope, for 2 pianos
  • Performers: Jerome Lowenthal (Piano); Ursula Oppens (Piano)
  • Notes: American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (12/07/2010-12/10/2010)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 43 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1959

>Corigliano, John : Etude Fantasy
  • Performer: Ursula Oppens (Piano)
  • Notes: American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (12/07/2010-12/10/2010)
  • Running Time: 16 min. 50 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1976