Ned Rorem: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand; Eleven Studies for Eleven Players

Gary Graffman / André Previn

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Ned Rorem: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand; Eleven Studies for Eleven Players Review

by Blair Sanderson

Ned Rorem's Piano Concerto No. 4 for the left hand was written for pianist Gary Graffman, who gives a striking performance on this 1994 release. The work is structured along the lines of a suite, with its eight distinct sections subsumed into three broad movements, roughly corresponding to the shape of a concerto. For all the challenging passagework in the solo part, this work has little of the give-and-take associated with the form, but instead positions the pianist in the midst of the orchestral textures in a cooperative relationship. The music is firmly in Rorem's tonal, neo-Romantic style, though with a modernist edge that occasionally bites. Despite the presence of a twelve-note motive, which sometimes lends the music an atonal quality, Rorem's applications are far from serial practices, and the difference is audible. André Previn and the Symphony Orchestra of the Curtis Institute of Music execute this dynamic score with great vitality and power, particularly in the crashes of the final Passacaglia. Rorem's 11 Studies for 11 Players employs more than 11 instruments, and it consequently sounds like a piece for chamber orchestra. While this composition might seem less substantial or serious than the concerto, its appeal may be greater for its unpretentious moods, conversational interplay, and abundant tone colors.

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