How can you play a classical recital without playing classical music?
I was preparing for a tour on which I would perform as the winner of a classical piano competition, but I was looking for music that was a little different. As much as I love the great classical composers (Bach, Mozart, Chopin, etc.), I wanted to play concerts that were a little unusual, a little offbeat, and a little jazzy. How could I perform as a classical pianist yet play my kind of music?
You now hold the answer to that question in your hands. Classical with Attitude is just that: concert music with bite. Though not exclusively by American composers, the selections all exhibit strong American music influence, either from jazz or ragtime. I get to combine some of my favorite styles into one project, and play great selections many audiences haven’t heard before.
This project’s initial inspiration came from the opening piece, Nikolai Kapustin’s ‘Prelude’ from his opus 40 set of etudes. Since the first time I heard it, I’ve been captivated by its unabashed assertiveness and ‘take charge’ attitude. I was so enamored with the piece, I knew I had to find a whole recital’s worth of music to complement it.
George Gershwin is probably the most famous example of a composer mixing classical and jazz, and his Three Preludes were a logical continuation of the program. William Bolcom’s Three Ghost Rags offer a welcome change of pace, as well as impressively subtle and intricate composition.
I selected five of Kapustin’s 24 Preludes in Jazz Style mostly just because I wanted to play more Kapustin, but also because they show a myriad of different possibilities for combining classical with jazz. Among those represented here are a jazz waltz, ballad, blues, and straight-ahead swing.
Rhapsody in Blue was a must to include. Perhaps no other piece of American classical music is better known, to say nothing of jazz-infused classical music. Finally, Kapustin’s Toccatina rounds out the program in an encore-like fashion. Perhaps the most purely joyful of any of the album’s selections, I can’t help but smile while playing it.
I hope that the result of this project is that you enjoy a collection of outstanding music you may not have heard before. It’s not just classical, it’s Classical with Attitude.
This album is made possible by the generosity of many people who offered their time, expertise, and resources to help me create it. The following people were particularly instrumental in their support.
Thank you, Donald Ryan, for your consistent example of diligence and the pursuit of excellence in music and all aspects of life. You’re an outstanding example of the professional I want to become.
Thank you, Edward Gates and Jura Margulis for pouring your musical sense into me and guiding my artistic development. Your teaching constantly reminds me to be patient, diligent, and loyal to the music.
Thank you, Tim Bickers, for constantly pushing me professionally and encouraging me to think creatively about non-musical concerns. Your insights are always invaluable.
Thank you, Steve Dyer, Kim Koch, Bryan Elmore, and Kendall Griffith, for allowing me to practice on quality instruments on a regular basis.
Thank you, Mr. Manager (Laurel Ryan), for keeping me on track and pushing me to do more. You take so much of the ‘work’ out of work.
Thank you, Doug Brown, for lending your expert ear to make this album sound world class. You gave this recording just the extra ‘attitude’ it needed.
Thank you, Nathan Harmon, for some of the coolest portraiture this world has ever seen. You have really helped me to stand out with such great photos to use.
Thank you, Jennith Moncrief and Julie Rains, for such fitting and fun design. You’re a joy to work with, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
Thank you, family and friends, for putting up with my sometimes-overbearing enthusiasm for music. You’re why I can practice for hours and remain (mostly) sane.
Lastly, thank you for purchasing this album! I hope you enjoy it and that it perhaps introduces you to some excellent new music.
Produced by Barron Ryan and Donald Ryan
Recording direction by Doug Brown
Recorded December 17–18, 2012 in Timko Barton Performance Hall at Oral Roberts University
Album artwork by Moncrief | Rains Design
Photos by Nathan Harmon Photography