Maëlstrom: Contemporary American Piano Music

Four American composers, all pianists, all prizewinners at the height of their powers. It is not surprising that the works collected here are idiomatic to the instrument and gratifying to play. Augusta Read Thomas explores the piano’s natural resonance and beauty. Wayne Peterson’s expressive, sweeping virtuosic lines reflect his past as a jazz pianist. Charles Wuorinen’s bracing rhythms leap across the instrument in a modernist romp that echoes the wit and humor of his opera. Eric Moe’s Afro-bebop encore rounds out the program.


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Rich in colour and contrast, Maelstrom is a welcome collection of contemporary piano music by four distinguished American composers. Thoughtfully compiled and skillfully performed by Lynn Raley, the album places challenging new works alongside more accessible and vibrant pieces, with all the selected works exploring 'extra-musical' ideas, be it evocations of Minnesotan tornadoes or Salman Rushdie's beguiling children's stories.

Two sets of etudes by Augusta Read Thomas open the collection and offer a diverse array of moods and colours. 'On Twilight', the fourth of Thomas's Six Etudes for Piano (1996-2005) flutters and hiccups with captivating energy, while 'Still Life', the first of Thomas's Eurythmy Etudes (2008), is a masterclass in musical stasis, celebrating the 'resonance of the piano itself. Wayne Peterson's Four Preludes (2000) is tautly constructed, the opening 'Maelstrom' a blistering account of the composer's childhood experience of storms in Minnesota, while Wuorinen's TheHaroun Piano Book (2009) adapts the composer's opera based on Salman Rushdie's delightful Haroun and the Sea of Stories in six characterful miniatures. ...a highly commendable release, offering rich insight into contemporary American music for
piano. BBC Music Magazine, August 2018

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