Michael Brown | Schubert | Debussy | Brown

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Schubert | Debussy | Brown

by Michael Brown

This debut CD of solo piano music performed by "a young piano visionary" (New York Times) features Schubert's "Gasteiner" Sonata, Debussy's revolutionary Études Book II, and the pianist's own composition Constellations and Toccata.
Genre: Classical: Piano solo
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Sonata in D Major, D. 850: I. Allegro
6:52 $0.99
2. Sonata in D Major, D. 850: II. Con Moto
13:42 $0.99
3. Sonata in D Major, D. 850: III. Scherzo: Allegro Vivace; Trio
9:19 $0.99
4. Sonata in D Major, D. 850: IV. Rondo: Allegro Moderato
8:43 $0.99
5. Études, Book II: VII. Pour Les Degrés Chromatiques
2:16 $0.99
6. Études, Book II: VIII. Pour Les Agréments
5:13 $0.99
7. Études, Book II: IX. Pour Les Notes Répétées
3:22 $0.99
8. Études, Book II: X. Pour Les Sonorités Opposées
5:37 $0.99
9. Études, Book II: XI. Pour Les Arpèges Composés
4:51 $0.99
10. Études, Book II: XII. Pour Les Accords
4:55 $0.99
11. Constellations and Toccata
6:58 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Franz Schubert: Sonata in D Major, D. 850 “Gasteiner” (1825)

Alfred Brendel wrote that “in his larger forms, Schubert is a wanderer. He likes to move at the edge of the
precipice, and does so with the assurance of a sleepwalker.” Schubert’s Piano Sonata in D major, D. 850 (Op.
53), known as the Gasteiner, fits this description and was written in the summer of 1825 while the composer
was staying in the Austrian spa town of Bad Gastein. The music is marked by a struggle between two
juxtaposing elements: the heroic and the pastoral.

The first movement uses contrasting themes to highlight this duality. The first theme features a repeated-note
motive, swirling triplets, and sudden harmonic shifts. The simple, rustic tune of the second theme begins
with the two hands unified and bears a striking resemblance to Das Heimweh (Homesickness), D. 851, a
song Schubert also composed while in Bad Gastein. A fast and pulsating energy persists, and the movement
concludes heroically.

The second movement, marked Con moto, opens with a song-like figure that serves as a platform for variation
and development. Syncopated rhythms and bold gestures dominate the contrasting second subject. Sequential
modulations take us to remarkably surprising places before the movement fades away in a blissful reverie.

The Scherzo returns to the heroic, characterized by dotted rhythms, hemiolas, and a lilting Viennese dance.
The subsequent trio is infused with pastoral overtones and the music looks back to the opulent nature of the
previous movement. The second half of the trio contains a sequence of modulations full of the imaginative and
otherworldly qualities associated with Schubert’s final works. The repeat of the scherzo is followed by a coda
where the lilting waltz-like figure returns, and this is significant; for the rest of the work heroics are overtaken by
the pastoral.

The finale’s basic rondo design begins with a charmingly delicate march. A transcendent middle section with a
song-like texture reminiscent of Die schöne Müllerin follows and is interrupted by a storm of abrupt modulations
and sweeping gestures. The song-like theme returns before the march is heard for the last time, now more
varied and decorated. In contrast to the heroic conclusion of the first movement, the sonata ends quietly with a
charming gesture of repose recalling the first phrase of the main theme with simplicity and grace.

Claude Debussy: Études, Book II (1915)

Debussy revered the works of Chopin. He prepared Chopin’s complete piano works for publication in 1915, the
same year he composed his own études dedicated the memory of the great master. Debussy’s Douze Études are
his final compositions for piano and are among the last works he lived to complete.

The twelve études are divided into two books of six each. Book I focuses on specific technical challenges (five
fingers, thirds, fourths, sixths, octaves, and eight fingers), while Book II uses progressive compositional tools
that delve into the abstract (chromatics, ornaments, repeated notes, opposing sonorities, composite arpeggios,
and chords).

The first étude of Book II, Pour les degrés chromatiques (chromatic steps), avoids standard tonal language while
featuring swirling chromatic gestures and pentatonicism. Listeners aurally retain recurring notes and patterns
that inevitably give a sense of tonal pull to A minor.

In striking contrast, Pour les agréments (ornaments) uses a more spacious canvas full of mordents and
embellishments. A stronger sense of tonality is present in this étude with a clear indication of F Major both in
the opening and near the end. The richness and complexity of almost every measure demonstrate Debussy’s
complete compositional command.

Pour les notes répétées (repeated notes) is a highly rhythmic study in repeated notes. Extreme contrasts of
dynamics and register create a jolty and scherzando-like atmosphere. The opening material is brought back again
near the end before the étude concludes with three hushed chords.

Pour les sonorités opposées (opposing sonorities) is by far the longest étude in the set and one of Debussy’s
most inspired compositions for piano. The use of the entire keyboard adds a dramatic sense of breadth that
gives this étude a feeling of infinite space and a boundless celestial quality.

Pour les arpèges composés explores the world of arpeggios (chords strummed one note at a time). Cascading
gestures are interrupted by a luminous middle section with music reminiscent of Debussy’s humorous
cakewalk style.

The unrelenting rhythm and power of the final study, Pour les accords (chords), suggest new emotional paths
for Debussy and foreshadow Stravinsky’s neoclassical style. The ferocity of the outer sections contrasts the
timeless and muted middle section, which recalls textures found in Pour les sonorités opposées. The work ends
with a violent octave on A, the same tonality that concludes the first étude, giving an architectural unity to the
whole set.

Like the études of Chopin, these imaginative works soar far beyond a simple pedagogical study. They are as
extraordinary for their originality and substance as for the demands they make on the performer. They reveal the
extremes of piano writing and directions Debussy might have taken had he lived past 1918.

They are, in a word, revolutionary.

Michael Brown: Constellations and Toccata (2012)

Constellations and Toccata was written for and premiered by the great pianist and my dear friend Orion Weiss
who shares his name with the well-known constellation. Often referred to as “The Hunter” in Greek mythology,
Orion is a prominently visible throughout the world and one of the most recognizable constellations in the
night sky.

The work is in two parts, with each section drawing inspiration from a different mode of perceiving the universe.
The soft, lush, and repeating sonorities in Constellations make up the music I envision for gazing at the
night sky: music for hearts and eyes touched by the sheer visible beauty of stars on a clear night. The use of
extreme keyboard registers and stagnant and repetitive sonorities creates a shimmering texture. The last gesture
evaporates into thin air leading without pause into the Toccata. The Toccata’s opening is all but still, with
hushed rumblings that give way to louder, quirkier and more violent outbursts. Running sixteenth notes create
a fast perpetual motion, generating a virtuosic flair that snaps the listener out of the spell of the nocturnal sky.
This is the universe in the modern age.

This work was commissioned by Concert Artists Guild with support from the New York State Council on
the Arts.

© 2012 Michael Brown



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