Ursula Oppens; Jerome Lowenthal
Cedille CDR 90000 123 www.cedillerecords.org
John Corigliano is a musical dramatist who melds the past century’s innovations into his own compositional style. Equally comfortable in classical repertoire and in contemporary music, pianist Ursula Oppens is an ideal interpreter of Corigliano, with the delicate sensitivity and fearless assurance to meet his music’s wide-ranging demands. This disc spans nearly 50 years, from Kaleidoscope (1959) to Winging It (2008). The latter comprises three composer improvisations “translated” from recorded sequences to written compositions. Corigliano succeeds in maintaining an improvisational feel, as does Oppens in her exploratory interpretation.
Corigliano’s Fantasia on an Ostinato (1985) is the most expressive minimalist work I know. His Etude Fantasy (1976) struck me as an outstanding and original work when I heard dedicatee James Tocco play it shortly after it was composed. Oppens’ interpretation maintains a wonderful sense of fantasy, while rising to the demands of five difficult pieces that never become strenuous technical exercises. For example, Etude No.3: Fifths to Thirds fits the hand beautifully.
Pianist and pedagogue Jerome Lowenthal joins Oppens in works for two pianos. In the evocative Chiaroscuro (1997) for pianos a quarter tone apart, the second piano suggests variously an out-of tune instrument, or “blue” notes, or high-register tinkling chimes! And in the early Fantasia (1959) Corigliano emerges as an Ivesian proto-Magic Realist, already with his own remarkable technique and colour-palette well established.