Schubert’s 3 Kavierstücke D. 946 are often overlooked when considering his piano oeuvre, possibly because they weren’t finalized or published before his early death in November 1828. Written just six months previous, they were edited anonymously by Johannes Brahms and published 40 years later. It is possible they were conceived as a third set of four Impromptus, and there is evidence that Schubert had plans for revision, especially for the third piece. It is also possible that Brahms combined the three as a set even though they were not conceived as such. Regardless, they represent mature writing, adventurous harmonic progressions and Schubert’s fully developed sense of lyricism.
Part of a set of six pieces for piano written between 1903-05, Notturno reflects Chopin and Debussy’s influence on Respighi. Much like Chopin’s Nocturnes and Berceuse, Respighi evokes the serenity of the evening with an opening ostinato accompanying a lyrical vocal line. Impressionistic harmonies are created as long pedals blur the harmonic changes over a static bass. At the climax, expressive coloratura passages are reminiscent of Chopin. The combination of Romantic song and Impressionistic harmonies make this one of Respighi’s most popular piano works.
One of the great virtuosic pianists in history, Rachmaninoff was the last in a line of great 19th century composer-pianists. He composed the Sonata in B-flat Minor in 1913 and premiered the piece in Moscow in December of the same year. In 1931 he drastically revised the work, cutting the length, difficulty, and emotional scale. Many pianists, most notably Vladimir Horowitz (with permission from the composer), create a synthesis of the two that keeps the large scale, impassioned expression and emotional intensity while cutting superfluous virtuosity. The monumental original version presented here, is at times brooding, savage, lyrical and pleading, with sweeping melodies and counterpoint typical of his works.