James and Julie Rivers | James and Julie Rivers, Duo-pianists

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Classical: Twentieth Century Classical: Contemporary Moods: Featuring Piano
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James and Julie Rivers, Duo-pianists

by James and Julie Rivers

A dynamic and energetic collection of five of the foremost duo-piano classical favorites from the twentieth century.
Genre: Classical: Twentieth Century
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos: Allegro ma non troppo
7:31 album only
2. Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos: Larghetto
4:57 album only
3. Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos: Finale
5:25 album only
4. Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances: Non allegro
10:22 album only
5. Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances: Andante con moto (Valse)
7:16 album only
6. Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances: Lento assai-Allegro vivace
7:49 album only
7. Dello Joio: Aria and Toccata
8:43 album only
8. Bartok Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion: Finale
6:56 album only
9. Lutoslawski: Variations on a Theme by Paganini
5:13 album only
10. Rossini: La Danza
3:18 album only


Album Notes

“Winning the hearts of their audiences wherever they play…”
____Isaac Van Grove, Los Angeles

This collection of favorite twentieth century duo piano works from their live performances celebrates the fortieth year of James and Julie Rivers’ professional collaboration. They met as piano students of Stefan Bardas at the University of North Texas where their earliest concerts were given. Associated with three touring programs over the years (Texas, Kansas and the Mid-America Arts Alliance) they played dozens of concerts each year from the Oregon Bach Festival to the Texas Round Top Festival with countless appearances in smaller communities and major cities across the United States. They have performed major duo piano concerti (Mozart, Poulenc and Bartok) with symphonies in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Texas and Missouri, including the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.

A native Texan, Julie Rivers, made her solo debut with the Dallas Symphony under a Rockefeller Foundation grant while a student at UNT. She won every award in the school of music. At age two, she began to play familiar melodies by ear. Her training began at age five at Texas Wesleyan University and continued at the Fort Worth Conservatory of Music. Since 1996, Julie Rivers has pursued writing her own compositions, receiving ASCAP awards every year from 1998 through 2007 and recording four original albums for EarthStar Recordings. She is one of seventeen pianists nationwide on a Spring Hill label recording benefiting families of the 9/11 tragedies. Julie Rivers was designated 2007 Commissioned Composer for Kansas by the Kansas Music Teachers Association and Honored Composer of Kansas in 2003 by the Kansas Federated Music Clubs. She is a four-time first place national winner in the National League of American Pen Women composition contest and was recognized by the Kansas Arts Commission with a Fellowship Award for composition.

James Rivers is artist in residence at Washburn University. Since his acclaimed debut in New York’s Town Hall at age 25, he has performed internationally as soloist with major orchestras, in solo recitals in major North American and European cities, and in chamber music concerts with some of the world’s finest artists. He is a featured artist at many music festivals, including Spoleto, Crested Butte, Buzzard’s Bay and the Sunflower Festival. He is widely known through network radio and television appearances in this country and abroad. He has recorded seven solo albums, is a published composer (ASCAP) and a graduate of Juilliard. In over 500 appearances, his Young Peoples Concerts have warmed the hearts of more than one million children nationwide. A noted teacher, his students have won major prizes in competitions including the Van Cliburn International. Also a popular speaker, he delights audiences with true tales of his life as a concert artist in his hilarious presentation, My Piano Gets Twenty Miles Per Gallon.

The performances on this album are live and unedited. They were retrieved from in-hall tape recordings of live concerts for capacity crowds attending Topeka Chamber Music Series concerts between April 1978 and November 1983, some of our most active concertizing years. During our collaboration, we played for audiences, not recording studio microphones. We recently decided we would like to document those years with a compilation of music from the concerts most memorable to us. We hope this memento will be accepted by listeners in the joyful spirit in which the performances were offered and received at the time of these recordings.
_____ James and Julie Rivers


Recording Producers: James and Julie Rivers
Tape transfers and mastering: Randy Wills, Exceptions Studio, Topeka, Kansas
Recorded: White Concert Hall, Washburn University, Topeka Kansas, under the auspices of the Topeka
Chamber Music Series between April 1978 and November 1983
Pianos: Steinway & Sons Model D
Percussion: George Boberg and Jay Wanamaker
Cover Artwork: Art Rivers
Design: Daric Wells, Graphic Arts, Topeka, Kansas



to write a review

Shane Spangler

Auditory Espresso Shots
Amidst a sea of soulless recordings that have been mastered and edited to death, James and Julie Rivers’ CD sparkles as an example of true musicianship and technical mastery tempered with unfailing artistic sensitivity and pure joy. These unedited live recordings faithfully preserve the excitement and energy of the original concerts, given between 1978 and 1983. Both pianists are at the top of their games, are perfectly matched musically, and the performances they give are interesting, inventive, and delightful. Listeners more familiar with the orchestral version of Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos will find this duo-piano performance refreshing, as the piano parts are exposed to reveal the intricacies of Poulenc’s writing. The Rivers Duo play this piece with reckless abandon, savoring the lyrical moments, capturing each change of mood, while flying through the virtuosic passages with youthful bravura. Their ensemble playing is organic and natural, giving the whole piece a spontaneous and improvised feel. The final movement is breathlessly fast, yet crystal clear, with repeated notes precisely placed to marvelous effect. Clearly, the audience agrees, as they erupt into applause and bravos before the last notes have even faded away. Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances are simply glorious; the listener will be tempted put down the car windows and turn up the volume on this piece, savoring the amazing orchestral sonorities and driving rhythms produced by the Rivers Duo. James and Julie feel the ebb and flow of each phrase, communicating their musical ideas to each other and to the listener with ease and conviction. Dello Joio’s Aria and Toccata is spellbinding and exciting, both pianists gifting the audience with singing tone in the Aria and unbridled passion in the Toccata. Rivers’ blistering performance of the finale of Bartok’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion is tightly woven together, with percussionists George Boberg and Jay Wanamaker working skillfully with James and Julie. After the fury of the Bartok unwinds into its unexpectedly non-committal final cadences, we are hit with Lutoslawski’s Variations on a theme by Paganini. It’s no surprise that the Rivers Duo saved this performance for last, not only in concerts, but also on this recording. A perfect antidote for syrupy renditions of Paganini’s famous A-minor violin caprice, Rivers’ performance is nothing short of shocking. Technically brilliant, rhythmically complex, harmonically refreshing, and free from sloppy sentimentality, this piece presents challenges that few duos can meet. James and Julie conquer this piece, dispatch it, and dance it around musically with its head on a pole. Following another explosive eruption of applause comes the encore, Rossini’s La Danza, which the Rivers’ play with charm and well-earned self indulgence.
James and Julie Rivers’ CD, like their concerts, leaves the listener satisfied, but wanting more. One hopes that they will release more of their performances in the future. The sound quality too is excellent, the recordings successfully making the transfer from nearly 30-year-old analog tape to digital. Multitaskers should be warned that this is not a CD to be listened to in the background, as it will claim your full attention. Drivers should be warned that listening to this CD whilst driving could result in speeding. Musicians should be warned that listening to this CD could remind you why you make music in the first place. This CD sounds like two best friends, making music together for an adoring audience. It should: that’s exactly what it is.