Thomas Warburton

The Piano Music of William Albright

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As a broad survey of William Albright's piano music, covering a 30-year span of his eclectic and prodigious creativity, this disc presents a compelling portrait of the composer at his best. Albright absorbed many influences into his personal language, though he was always tasteful and subtle in handling his materials. When he played with different styles and used musical references in his work -- never direct quotations -- it was always with high purpose and careful preparation, and without parody. The Five Chromatic Dances (1976) marked a major achievement both in terms of successfully incorporating the models of Beethoven, Chopin, and Debussy into a modern context and in exploiting the full range of the piano. Pianoagogo (1965-1966), despite its allusions to lounge piano style, is more subdued and abstract than its humorous title suggests. In Sphaera (1985), for piano and computer-generated tape, the processed sounds of a Bösendorfer extend the piano's sound world to a cosmic level, reverberating, gliding, and warping in ways that work well with the acoustic piano's crystalline structures. The Grand Sonata in Rag (1968) is a relic of Albright's youthful enthusiasm for ragtime and retains some charm today, even though it was a product of a fad that has passed.

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