Michael Barrett, Piano; The Brooklyn Philharmonic, Lukas Foss, Music Director and Conductor
This record brings together two examples of American musical populism at its most sophisticated—or, if you prefer, American Modernism at is most accessible.
There are many similarities between Tobias Picker’s Keys to the City (1983) and Marc Blitzstein’s Piano Concerto (1931). Both are works by young men: Picker was twenty-eight years old when Keys to the City received its spectacular premiere and Blitzstein was only twenty-five when he finished his concerto. Both pieces are ambitious, virtuosic compositions for piano and orchestra that are, in their own ways, “New York pieces”— musical reflections of the city that gave them birth. Keys to the City was commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge and first performed directly in the shadow of its stone towers, while Blitzstein wrote most of his concerto in Greenwich Village. Both works combine academic expertise, formal development, careful counterpoint, and appropriate orchestration with a brash, fierce, even rebellious spontaneity.
But it will not do to belabor the point, for each concerto has its own distinct character. Peter G. Davis has written that the Blitzstein is “terse, biting, witty, melodically fresh, and with a disturbing undercurrent of melancholy.” And so it is. There are plenty of undercurrents in Keys to the City too, but none of them are melancholy... —Tim Page
This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available as a burn-on-demand CD (CD-R) or download in MP3/320, FLAC or WAV formats. CD-Rs come in a protective sleeve; no print booklet or jewel case included. Liner notes are accessible via the link above.