Notice that I don’t say “best new keyboard releases of 2014.” That would be completely unfair to all of my colleagues and friends! I’m talking about keyboard recordings from this past year that grabbed and held my attention, stirred me up, and opened new doors. Of course there’ve been plenty of important box set reissues and archival releases to appease the insatiable pianophile. They deserve their own list and blog entry. Maybe I’ll do that next.
Here are just a few of my big playlist items from this past year:
1. Mamuro Fujieda: Patterns of Plants. Sarah Cahill, piano (Pinna). In a way, Fujieda is the Japanese Mompou, in that he writes short and often gentle pieces that are far more sophisticated in design and texture than meets the ear. The same can be said for Cahill’s subtle, nuanced and gorgeously engineered pianism.
2. Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Op. 101, 106. 109, 110 & 111. Igor Levit, piano (Sony). This young pianist navigates Beethoven’s combative linear style with a fusion of mind, instinct, flexibility and marksmanship that not only augers well for a complete Beethoven cycle, but also makes me curious to hear his much talked-about interpretation of Frederic Rzewski’s “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!”, as well as next season’s Bach Goldberg Variations collaboration with Marina Abramović.
3. François Couperin: Pièces de clavecin: 7th, 8th, 25th, 26th, & 27th ordres. Blandine Verlet, harpsichord (Aparte). Although it’s all but impossible to locate Verlet’s marvelous complete Couperin cycle on the Astrée label (at least I haven’t been able to do so), she has recorded several favorites again, and takes her sweet time allowing embellishments to rise and fall with maximum expressive variety and harmonic tension, as if she’s improvising the music on the spot.
4. Eric Craven: Piano Sonatas 7, 8 & 9. Mary Dullea, piano (Metier). Although this composer normally shuns the limelight, his music deserves serious attention. His structures are sort of open ended, leaving many decisions to the performer. The music is alternately sparse, dissonant, lyrical, petulant, fiery and static, yet the ups and downs are easy to absorb. Mary Dullea’s committed and refined artistry doesn’t hurt, either.
5. CPE Bach: Complete Works for Piano Solo. Ana-Marija Markovina, piano (Hänssler Classics). At long last, a truly complete collection of CPE Bach’s capricious, inventive and endlessly fascinating solo keyboard output on 26 discs. Care and consideration govern each and every aspect of this release, from packaging, programming and sound quality to Markovina’s idiomatic, communicative interpretations.
I invite you to share some of your favorite 2014 keyboard releases as we get ready to ring in the new year. Have a happy and healthy 2015!