A prominent figure in American modernist circles through most of the twentieth century, Leon Kirchner is a highly regarded composer, though his music is perhaps more often discussed than performed, due to its dense chromaticism, angular lines, and generally dark and introspective expressions. This 2007 release from Albany brings together Kirchner's major keyboard works as performed by six gifted pianists who bring distinctive characterizations to the music. Anyone who is familiar with the modern piano repertoire will notice in these selections Kirchner's strong affinity with Schoenberg, though a surprising aspect of these pieces is their resemblance to the ecstatic late works of Scriabin. Kirchner's musical language is remarkably controlled and constant for the years these works span (1948-2006), though a shift toward tonal inflections, if not outright tonality, is apparent in later pieces, most noticeably in the Interlude II and in the Sonata No. 2. However, as with many of this label's retrospective compilations, the recordings vary somewhat in sound quality because they have been drawn from different sources and range from the dry and shallow analog reproduction of Leon Fleisher's 1963 performance of the Sonata No. 1 to the fully dimensional digital sound of Jeremy Denk's live 2006 reading of the Sonata No. 2. Between these points are performances that are at least consistent in mood and intelligibility, and listeners can appreciate the sympathetic performances by Peter Serkin, Max Levinson, Jonathan Biss, and Joel Fan without encountering any serious sound problems other than occasional audience noises and creaking piano benches.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Piano Sonata No. 1|
|Pieces (5) for piano|