"The real instrument of the Romantic era," wrote musicologist Alfred Einstein, "is the piano. [It is] the means of presenting the most intimate as well as the most brilliant display at home and in the concert hall." This album is made up entirely of masterpieces of Romantic piano music. All the composers were inspired to write this music through non-musical sources such as books, paintings, or a person.
Pictures at an Exhibition
August 1873 saw the unexpected death of the architect and painter Victor Hartmann, Modeste Mussorgsky's intimate friend. At the suggestion of the well known music and art critic Vladimir Stassov, an exhibition of Hartmann's work was held the following year in memory of the artist. On visiting this exhibition, Mussorgsky was inspired to compose musical illustrations of of some of the drawings and watercolors. The result was the cycle Pictures at an Exhibition for piano consiting of ten pieces introduced by a promenade and connected by interludes. It had taken Mussorgsky about 3 weeks to compose.
A significant point is that Mussorgsky, rather than creating a musical fantasy based on a set of impressions or ideas, describes in his music the actual paintings themselves, and saves his moments of reflection for the various promenade sections. In "Bydlo" for instance, the alternating chords in the left hand suggest the rumbling of the approaching ox cart, while in the succeeding promenade the momentary burst of the "Unhatched Chicks" theme illustrates his suprise and delight as he suddenly alights upon the next picture. This strict realism is made quite evident by the fact that he includes himself among the objects of his observation. Stassov wrote that the promenade and the interludes show the composer
"moving now to the left, now to the right, now wondering aimlessly, now making for one of the pictures."
Variations on a Theme of Paganini
Paganini was such a legend in Europe that it is hard to overstate his fame. He was a dark mysterious figure who played the violin so strikingly that even serious minded persons believe he was taugh by the devil himself. It was thought that no human being could master such difficulties of execution. Many romantic composers were inspired by Paganini including Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Schumann. Brahms designed his Paganini Variations primarily with virtuosity in mind. He wrote 2 books each with the theme followed by 14 variations. The critic James Huneker wrote "These diabolical variations, the last word in the technical literature of the piano, are also vast spiritual problems. To play them at all requires fingers of steel, a heart of burning lava, and the courage of a lion."
Etienne de Senecour's novel Obermann inspired Liszt in this lush meditation on the French author's deep mysticism. The piece begins in intropective solitude and despair, and from there runs the gamut of emotions. An accompanying citaion from the novel reads "The unspeakable sensitivity, charm and torment of our vain years; vast conciousness of a nature everywhere overwhelming and everywhere impenetrable, universal passion, indifference, ripe wisdom, voluptuous abandon; all that a mortal heart can contain of desire and a profound sorrow, I felt them all, experienced them all that memorable night. I made a sinister step towards the age of enfeeblement; I devoured ten years of my life." (Obermann letter 4)
Paul Bisaccia - Provincetown MA (French translation by Daniel O'Neil)
Check out excerpts from Paul Bisaccia's PBS television shows on youtube.com
and more info at pianowithpaul.com
Critics praise for Bisaccia:
"His fabulous encore with plenty of scintillating, puckish fingerwork on the ivories." The Straits Times, Singapore
"Bisaccia brought the audience to their feet with genuine spontaneous cheers erupting out of sheer joy." Steinway Society of the Bay Area (CA)
"Bisaccia is a serious artist with a compelling presence at the piano."
"For Gershwin interpretations Bisaccia wins hands down." American Record Guide
"You really must hear him!" Brasilia Super Radio FM Brazil
"Earnest vivacity and sparkling virtuosity... infectious excitement." Union-News Springfield (MA)
"George Gershwin would have joined the audience in the standing ovation at the conclusion of 'Rhapsody in Blue'. " The Hartford Courant (CT)
"Prepare to be dazzled!" OnCenter Arts Quarterly,
Hilton Head SC
"It just proves that talent always prevails in these times of mediocrity.Consummate musicianship. " Michael Feinstein