Ursula Oppens – Fantasy (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:09:59 minutes | 1,06 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © Cedille
Pianist Ursula Oppens, stalwart champion of 20th- and 21st-century American music and recipient of multiple Grammy nominations and other honors, celebrates her decades-long friendship and professional association with composer Laura Kaminsky on an album of world-premiere recordings.
The program includes two recent works written for the pianist: Kaminsky’s Piano Quintet, performed with the Cassatt String Quartet, “a concise work of considerable substance and atmosphere” (New York Classical Review) and the turbulent Reckoning: Five Miniatures for America for piano four-hands, with pianist Jerome Lowenthal, created expressly for this recording.
A large-scale Fantasy for solo piano explores sonorities from French Impressionism to jazz.
Another work written for Oppens, Kaminsky’s Piano Concerto, a Koussevitzky Music Foundation commission, was inspired by was inspired by visual images of sunlit rivers in New York City and St. Petersburg, Russia, where Oppens gave the world premiere with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic led by its artistic director Jeffery Meyer. On this world-premiere recording, Meyer, who is also director of orchestras at Arizona State University, conducts the ASU Symphony Orchestra.
Pianist Ursula Oppens is a specialist in contemporary music, and she has worked closely with composer Laura Kaminsky. This album grew out of performances marking Oppens’ 75th birthday. That milestone marks no diminution in her powers, and the music here is played confidently and fluently. Kaminsky’s music is distinctive, and this release may make a good introduction to it for many listeners. It is difficult to classify according to modern “schools,” for it may be transparently tonal or entirely dissonant, but this is the key to enjoying it. Tonal relationships here are decorative rather than fundamental to the structure. Instead, it is rhythm that organizes Kaminsky’s music, and here her range of influences is wide. “Anthem,” the first movement of the Piano Quintet, draws on Kaminsky’s experiences hearing drums while teaching in Ghana in 1992 and 1993. Other pieces show jazz influences or are animated by extramusical ideas, including the political climate of the U.S. in the late 2010s. The concluding Piano Concerto, which would be ideal for performance by small university orchestras, evokes the composer’s views of the Hudson River and the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. An attractive release from the Cedille label, whose artist-and-repertory managers have an ear for interesting American music of the most diverse sorts.
1. Ursula Oppens – I. Anthem
2. Ursula Oppens – II. Lamentation (Coming into Light)
3. Ursula Oppens – III. Maelstrom, And…
4. Ursula Oppens – Fantasy
5. Ursula Oppens – No. 1, Majestic. Yet.
6. Ursula Oppens – No. 2, Hurtling. Still.
7. Ursula Oppens – No. 3, Reverie
8. Ursula Oppens – No. 4, Divided
9. Ursula Oppens – No. 5, Forward. Yet.
10. Ursula Oppens – Piano Concerto