RZEWSKI: The People United Will Never Be Defeated! Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues.
Ralph van Raat, piano
NAXOS 8.559360 (B) TT: 73:05

ANTHEIL: Piano Concerto No. 1. Piano Concerto No. 2. A Jazz Symphony. Jazz Sonata. Can-Can. Sonatina. Death of Machines. Little Shimmy
Markus Becker, piano; NDR Radio Philharmonic Orch/Eiji Oui, cond.
cpo 777 109 (F) TT: 65:38

DEBUSSY: Two Arabesques. Children's Corner Suite. Images Book I (Reflects dans l'eau. Hommage à Rameau. Mouvement). Images Book II (Cloches à travers les feuilles. Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut. Poissons d'or). Clair de Lune. L'Isle joyeuse
Simon Trpceski, piano
EMI CLASSICS 00272 (F) TT: 62:27

BACH: Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826. Partita No. 3 in A minor, BWV 827. Partita No. 4 in D, BWV 828
Murray Perahia, piano
SONY CLASSICAL 22697 (F) TT: 71:49

ALWYN: Sonata alla toccata. Green Hills: Andante molto e tranquillo. Cricketty Mill: Allegretto e piacevole. Prelude and Fugue formed on an Indian Scale. Haze of Noon: Adagio molto tranquillo. Harvest Home. Fancy Free. April Morn. Fantasy Waltzes
Ashley Wass, piano
NAXOS 8.570359 (B) TT: 73:14

There is renewed interest in music of American composer Frederich Rzewski (b. 1938). Strongly influenced by John Cage and David Tudor, he experimented with new styles of playing and composing. His best-known work is The People United Will Never Be Defeated! composed in 1975, a set of 36 variations on a protest song by Chilean composer Sergio Ortega. The music represents struggle vividly and is incredibly difficult to perform. There are several recordings of it (unfortunately not one by Ursula Oppens who commissioned the work), including a remarkable one by Marc-André Hamelin, and a video of the composer's performance. Dutch pianist Ralph Van Raat, who already has recorded music of John Adams and Robin de Raaff, studied Rzewski's music with the composer and gives a brilliant performance of The People United, plus Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues from Rzewski's Four North American Ballads (Hamelin included two other ballads). Sonically the Naxos recording is outstanding, vividly capturing the music's dense sonorities as well as the written-in part for the piano lid slamming shut in Variation 11.

George Antheil (1900-1959) composed the music on the new cpo disk a half-century before Rzewski wrote his People United. Doubtless Antheil would have admired Rzewski's work. On this CD we have both of Antheil's piano concertos, A Jazz Symphony (presented here in its revised version), and a very brief Jazz Sonata. This is followed by Sonatina (at 4:20 more than twice as long as Jazz Sonata), a Can-Can that doesn't remotely sound like what it is supposed to be (although it was performed and choreographed by George Balanchine), the notorious Death of Machines, and a final gentle Little Shimmy. Markus Becker plays all this with utmost brilliance, and sonic quality is first-rate. A splendid release! Admirers of Antheil will rejoice that ArkivMusic has resurrected the long-deleted Ballet Theater/Joseph Levine recording of the 1953 ballet Capital of the World.

To his previous recordings of Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and Prokofiev, young Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski adds a superb Debussy collection immaculately played. The only negative feature is that the program could easily have been longer. In the CD booklet Trpceski thanks EMI for their support in making "the accompanying video for this CD in my homeland of the republic of Macedonia..." This surely suggests there is a DVD included, but it is not; you will find it by visiting http://www.trpceskidebussy.com where you can watch the pianist performing Debussy and talking about this album. Murray Perahia adds these superb performances of Partita's Partita's 2, 3 and 4 to his extensive Sony Bach recordings. Andreas Neubronner was the producer, Christian Starke the recording engineer for these sessions held in June and November 2007 in Berlin. Bach played on a modern piano doesn't come better than this.

And once again we are indebted to Naxos for their ventures into unknown repertory. Here is the first volume in a projected series devoted to piano music of British composer William Alwyn (1905-1985). The major work is Fantasy Waltzes, a suite of 11 pieces composed 1954-1955 partially inspired by Grieg, considered to be Alwyn's major work for solo piano. Six of the other shorter pieces here receive their first recordings. Young British pianist Ashley Wass, who already has made fine recordings of music of Bax, Bridge and Elgar, plays Alwyn's music to perfection, and the Naxos sound is of their usual high quality. A fine release!

R.E.B. (April 2008)