Born in 1958 in St. Albans, Vermont, David Rakowski is the youngest of the three Brandeis composers here under review. He was a finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize in Music with his chamber-orchestra composition Persistent Memory, which was premiered by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. His awards include a Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and awards from the Rockefeller Foundation and BMI. Prior to joining the Brandeis faculty in 1996, Rakowski taught at Columbia and Stanford Universities and completed a Ph.D. at Princeton University.Composed to follow his first piano etude E-Machines (published by C. F. Peters in 1990), Rakowski' second etude for piano, BAM!, is a virtuosic display of dynamic, tempo, and register extremes. Although it may be performed separately from E-Machines, BAM! aptly derives its title from the ending of the companion piece, which concludes with a sudden sixteenth note on B-flat2-D-flat1 marked sffffff and played with the fist. BAM! begins with this same subcontra minor third attack (now reduced to a sfff) that recurs at irregular moments to pierce a pp texture of running sixteenth notes. The tessitura of these sixteenth notes begins at the lowest range of the piano, gradually widening as it ascends to a stratospheric e-flat''''. Although this music speaks a harmonic and rhythmic language of the later twentieth century, BAM! (and its companion etudes Nocturnal and E-Machines) are very much in the spirit of the nineteenth-century concert etude aimed at demonstrating virtuosity. The overall formal design underlying Rakowski's etudes is uncomplicated, and each lasts only three to four minutes. Marked to be played 'pipistrello in uscita dal inferno' (bat out of hell) - that is, as fast as possible with quarter = 144+ - BAM! feature meter changes in virtually every measure, sudden extreme changes in dynamics, and wide-leaping sixteenth notes. To perform this work, a pianist requires a technique of the highest order. Composed in Bellagio, Italy in 1991, BAM! was premiered in Boston in February 1992 by Karen Harvey, to whom it is dedicated. Published with BAM!, Rakowski's third piano etude, Nocturnal, forms an attractive complement to the two earlier etudes. It was composed in 1992 and premiered a year later by pianist Lyn Reyna. Marked lento, this etude begins quietly and revolves around an incantation of a registrally fixed f#' repeating at syncopated quarter-note durations. Against the backdrop of this ostinato, a multivoiced counterpoint unfolds from below. Eventually, d' quietly takes of the f#''s role, and gradually this musical mantra descends through f to E1. Throughout this descent, there is a foreshortening of the time that each new pitch holds on to its mantra role. In opposition to this idea of a descending repeated pitch, the music of the contrapuntal voices gradually ascends and gains rhythmic speed, becoming fastest as the mantra reaches its lowest note. At this point, the music continues with a wide separation of registers between quiet articulations in the lowest range of the piano and the other voices in higher registers, sounding vaguely like a quiet echo of BAM! when the two pieces are played as a set. The fixed repeated pitch idea is still present in the second half of this etude, but remains buried in the more complex piano texture that has developed. In the final measures of Nocturnal, the repeated f#' re-emerges at a slightly faster speed to bring the etude to a close.The combined edition of BAM! and Nocturnal is reproduced from the composer's handwritten manuscript. Rakowski's calligraphy can be hard on the eyes because his ledger lines tend to be uneven and accidentals sometimes look crowded; once again we have the annoying spiral binding. This is an unfortunate appearance for such well-crafted and appealing piano music. Rakowski's Duo for Violin and Piano, written between 1979 and 1981, is dedicated to Milton Babbitt on the occasion of the composer's sixty-fifth birthday in 1981. It was premiered in Boston by violinist Ken Sugita and pianist Karen Harvey. This is a rhythmically complex work with many changes in tempo, including a section with metric modulations in rapid succession. Due to the difficulty of synchronizing the violin and piano parts, the performers are to read from score. Peters provides a cleanly engraved edition, although the font size is somewhat small considering that this is a performing score. The piano must make significant use of the sostenuto pedal for special resonance effect, silently depressing specified keys and then applying the sostenuto pedal to raise the dampers on the strings for those selected pitches. As accented chords and pitches are played, the undampened strings resonate particular harmonics sympathetically. Rakowski indicates in the score's prefatory notes that if the piano's sostenuto pedal does not work properly, then the performer should ignore sostenuto markings, although a very attractive aspect of this music would be lost without this resonance.In responding to the issues of complexity in his music, Babbitt commented that 'I want a piece of music to be literally as much as possible' (The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. [London: Macmillan, 1980], 1:106). Rakowski has very admirably made his duo 'as much as possible,' composing a very expressive and dynamic piece with a larger vision behind the complexity of details. In doing so, he has written and impressive and fitting homage to Babbitt. - Martin Schreiner, Harvard University; Notes, Vol. 56 No. 2, December 1999, pp. 506-507.
Ordering vanilla ice cream or a bean burrito may be a bit on the boring side, but it's a good test of a purveyor's wares in these days of myriad culinary choices. Similarly, composers can often be judged by their piano music - if they can get the basics right, the addition of richer sonic flavors should naturally follow. Four recent albums from composers and pianists show just how well the basics can be done these days. All share a sensibility with respect to past, and an energy that looks to the future. David Rakowski's music on the CRI release Hyperblue brims with spirit and humor. He is an American in-your-face Messiaen fond of doublings, bells, and sonorous chords. His piano etudes - temptingly only partially revealed on this CD (numbers 1, 2, 7, 10 and 14) - are scattered about like bookends amongst the longer chamber works. While the album does not include his notable Pollici e Mignoli, Touch Typing, and Plucking A (respectively for thumbs & pinkies, index fingers, and inside-the-piano performance), we are treated to essays on melody with thick chords (7), left-hand running notes (10), repeated notes (1), and swirls of notes (2). The titular Hyperblue explores the headlong darker side of jazz, characterized by the composer as a "scherzo sandwich" of fast-slow-fast, although where I come from, sandwiches are described by their innards, not the bread… The Triple Helix's tasty performance here and in Attitude Problem capture Rakowski's Carteresque sense of the dramatic, further demonstrated by Sesso e Violenza in Ensemble 21's animated reading where eventually the flutes are sucked back into the unison at the end, kicking and screaming. If Rakowski can do this much with non-verbal music, imagine his take on the poetry of Louise Bogan in Three Songs. Following suit, Ross Bauer provides high-quality program notes to this fine release. - Mark Alburger, 21st Century Music, March, 2000.
Not all contemporary settings are so novel. "Three Songs on Poems of Louise Bogan" (1989), a work by the young American composer David Rakowski (b. 1958), is more traditionally set for voice and piano. While these songs are direct descendants of the lieder and chansons of the previous century, they reveal the emotional rawness and candor of their texts in a confessional manner unthinkable even fifty years ago. "Late" is a study in disaffection and alienation, a vocal line that stuns with its cool apathy. In "Cassandra," composure turns to unchecked frustration and rage of one to whom no one listens. The singer articulates the words in speech-like fashion, in fuming recitative, as the piano offers hollow support.
Song, like a wing, tears through my breast, my side,
And madness chooses out my voice again,
Again. I am the chosen no hand saves.
Harmonically lush and inviting, Rakowski's music is also extraordinarily tactile. "To Be Sung on the Water" shares the buoyancy of other water pieces, like Debussy's La Mer, Schoenberg's "Farben," Op. 16 No. 3 ("Summer Morning on a Lake"), and Schubert's "Auf Dem Wasser zu singen." It embodies musically the strong rhythmic drive of Bogan's text.
Beautiful, my delight,
Pass, as we pass the wave.
Pass, as the mottled night
Leaves what it cannot save,
Scattering dark and bright.
Beautiful, pass and be
Less than the guiltless shade
To which our vows were said;
Less than the sound of the oar
To which our vows were made;--
Less than the sound of its blade
Dipping the stream once more.
Marilyn Nonken, Agni, No. 51 (spring, 2000)
David Rakowski negotiates the complexities and contradictions of the music of our time with uncanny fluency. His songs really sing with a natural yet unpredictable lyricism. His works for small ensemble are true chamber music with intricate and mercurial changes. His extensive series of Piano Études, with their ferocious technical demands and infernal wit, push outward the range of possibilities for true virtuoso. The orchestra music has density and scale and large eloquence. And his music laughs as it engages the body, sings, dances, challenges the mind and explores the spirit. - Citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ceremonial Program, May 17, 2000.
(about CRI CD 820) Craft and energy mark the music of Maine composer David Rakowski. His pieces, particularly the ones for solo piano, here given sure performances by Marilyn Nonkin, (sic) have clear phrase shapes, tonal (but not necessarily) harmonic structures, and are easy to follow. They sound like they would be challenging and enjoyable to play, but after a while they begin to take on a grey cast, perhaps owing to a rather constant level of harmonic tension--and not much tension, at that. These well-made pieces could probably find a place in the college recital repertoire. -- American Record Guide, July, 2000.
Primo CD personale per Rakowski, autore assai sfaccettato e dalla vena compositiva fresca ed "impudente". Qui troviamo brani per diverse formazioni, dai titoli eccentrici e dallo sviluppo sonoro molto invitante (Sesso e Violenza, per due flauti e gruppo strumentale o Hyperblue, per trio di pianoforti o gli Etudes per pianoforte). Da ascoltare. - Web page for Maggio Distributors, Italy. [ The first solo CD from Rakowski, a rather multifaceted author from a fresh and "impudent" compositional vein. Here we find diverse strains, from eccentric titles to extremely inviting developments of sonority (Sesso e Violenza, for two flutes and instrumental group, or Hyperblue for piano trio, or piano Etudes). A must hear. ]
David Rakowski is one of America's finest, most accomplished young composers. In the booklet notes for this CD, he mentions having "spent and misspent a good portion of his youth playing keyboards in a rock band and trombone in community bands." This listener believes Rakowski's time was excellently employed this way; while his music exhibits some affinity with the Columbia/Princeton ethos, it also possesses a clarity, directness, sparkle, and vigor very much its own. It is tempting to think that years of playing Sousa marches and Rolling Stones tunes helped leaven this composer's rigorous training, ultimately putting Rakowski onto the path that resulted in the uniquely personal style exhibited here. East Coast influences are most clearly seen in his Three Songs on Poems of Louise Bogan. The piano accompaniment here is expressionistically moody (though more textural than linear in approach), supporting an atonal, yet atmospheric vocal line. The effect of the first two songs is mysteriously understated, of the last, plushly warm. The three large ensemble pieces on this release share certain characteristics. All employ unison openings (either melodic or rhythmic), scherzo-oriented material, and three-movement fast-slow-fast layouts played without intervening pauses. As is true of the best composers, though, Rakowski inventively fleshes out his basic blueprints with widely varied and engaging material of significant originality. The title piece's outer movements are restless, intense, and dramatic, surrounding an elegantly earnest contrapuntal midsection. The whole exhibits an almost Beethovenian sense of demonstrative energy. Attitude Problem, while equally substantive, is somewhat lighter in feel. The work's last movement tangibly takes its scherzo label to heart; while still kinetically intense, it utilizes silences and sudden parameter shifts to delightfully droll effect. And the slow movement here is expressive in a still and crystalline, not resolute, way. Sesso e Violenza employs its flute, strings, piano, and percussion scoring to stunning effect. This is a colorful feast for the ears, willowy and gorgeous. One can revel in this piece solely on a sensually sonic level-but to stop there would be a mistake, as there is much melodic and structural beauty to enjoy here as well. Scattered in between these larger pieces, like lustrous wildflowers in a verdant field, are found numerous piano etudes. Most of these, such as Martler, Corrente, and BAM!, are vibrant, good-natured toccatas of different kinds; the major exception is Les Arbres Embues, a warmly atmospheric work which suggests an updating of Messiaen's slow piano compositions. Performances (featuring Ensemble 21, the piano trio Triple Helix, soprano Judith Bettina and pianists Marilyn Nonken and James Goldsworthy) are uniformly excellent. Sound quality and production values are fine. Simply put, this is a significant release by a major composer, thoroughly enjoyed, and highly recommended. One's money will not be misspent in picking up a copy. - David Cleary, 21st Century Music, November, 2000.
Works by Jason Eckardt, David Rakowski, Michael Finnissy, Milton Babbitt, and Jeff Nichols declined to dance or sing. With the exception of Rakowski's "Les Arbres Embués" (1995) - a sonorous mood piece, whose gently chiming parallel chords recall Debussy - this is music that prefers to argue. - Tom Strini, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 29, 2001.
That nearly everyone but the stagehands had a chance to speak at length made the evening so civilized, so enlightened, so Quaker-like that you hoped it would conclude before your clothes went out of style. Such elongating elements cannot have helped the concentration among listeners and musicians, even under the quick-on-the-uptake direction of Jan Krzywicki. The primary victim was David Rakowski's "Gut Reaction," which more or less bounced off my fatigued ears, though the level of inspiration in his setting of the Sophie Wadsworth poem "The Gardener" rallied the evening. Nonetheless, if Network for New Music is going to present lecture recitals, they should be billed as such. - David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 29, 2001.
(about a Chicago Symphony MusicNOW performance) The program included two solo works, one featuring the ferociously talented pianist Amy Briggs Dissanayake in four spiky, often witty etudes by Rakowski. Claiming that he wrote short piano etudes when he was "having trouble" composing larger works, the young American composer has created a lively stew of ideas inspired by '30s swing, traditional technical exercises for piano and his own off-kilter sensibility. -- Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times, May 4, 2001
Rakowski's Piano Etudes (1997-98) and Martino's "A Set for Clarinet" (1954), proved less intrinsically interesting than the dashing virtuosity of their respective performers, pianist Amy Briggs Dissanayake and clarinetist John Bruce Yeh. The rhythmic dislocations and dense, toccata-like structures of the four Rakowski etudes often brought to mind the superior keyboard studies of Gyorgy Ligeti and Conlon Nancarrow. - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, May 4, 2001
Two of the final concerts alone would have made the journey to Lucerne worth while. Under Timothy Foley, another conductor who has complete control of dynamics, phrasing and ensemble with an unostentatious beat, The United States Marine Band, which I still rate as probably the best in the world, gave a beautifully planned program, beginning with a Harmonie-musik arrangement of the "William Tell Overture" (a nice gesture to our hosts), ending with a superb "Lincolnshire Posy," and including two standards — the new edition of Stravinsky's "Symphonies of Wind Instruments" and Copland's "The Red Pony," which really should be played more often. The second half of the program began with the world premiere of David Rakowski's "Ten of a Kind," a concerto for ten clarinets, who are in fact but one of many concertante groups drawn from the orchestra. I loved the sound world and found the ideas flowed naturally and that the contrasts were finely drawn. -- Tim Reynish, WASBE newsletter, Summer 2001.
Seine ganze Farbpalette konnte das Orchester unter Colonel Timothy W. Foley hingegen in der Suite «The Red Pony» von Aaron Copland demonstrieren, wobei es den Blechglanz ganz für den Schluss aufsparte, in dem die volksliedhafte Anfangsmelodie triumphierend im vollen Orchester erklingt. Der zweite Teil war dann vorab Musik unserer Zeit gewidmet. Die Kunstfertigkeit, mit der David Rakowski in «Ten of a Kind» durch die vier Sätze das thematische Material verändert, dabei fast asketisch die Holzbläser gegenüber dem Blech bevorzugt, führt beinahe ins Uferlose. Und den Solisten mit zehn Klarinetten zu besetzen, geht wohl zu weit, erschwert eine Concerto-Wirkung. — Von Fritz Schaub, Neue Luzerner Zeitung, July 14, 2001.
[ In contrast, the orchestra (the US Marine Band) under the direction of Timothy W. Foley was able to demonstrate the full palette of colors in the suite “The Red Pony” by Aaron Copland, saving the glow of the brass for the finale, where the folklike melody from the opening reappears in the whole band. The second half was then dedicated to music of our time. The skillfulness of David Rakowski’s variations of the theme in “Ten of a Kind” throughout the four movements, while almost ascetically preferring the woodwinds over the brass, leads almost nowhere. And to use ten solo clarinets seemed like taking it too far, making it more difficult to achieve the effect of a concerto. ]
Of the three works given, David Rakowski’s Imaginary Dances (1986) was the one most mindful of proportion and structure. The composer’s careful ear for sectional and formal balance is obviously manifest: movements clearly possess beginnings, middles, and ends that are architecturally sound. Orchestrated for a sizeable complement that adds oboe, viola and percussion to Maw’s Pierrot quintet, the piece manages to delineate busy, East Coast oriented densities without ever seeming clotted or stodgy. This is dramatic, energetic, well-argued music of much character and sense of purpose, a first-rate listen. — David Cleary, Twenty-First Century Music, January, 2002.
Rakowski’s Ten of a Kind shows an inventive mind with a mastery over a complex, challenging and unusual instrumental ensemble. The presence of ten solo clarinets woven dramatically but seamlessly into the instrumental texture is only one of the striking aspects of this core, testifying to its originality and imagination. The processing of vernacular jazz rhythms is done with extraordinary flare. — Jury report, Pulitzer Prizes, March 27, 2002.
Three interesting pieces made up the program's first half, two of them duets. The brief opening work, David Rakowski's Two Can Play That Game, was given its premiere by bass clarinetist Peter Josheff, for whom it was composed, and marimbist Jessica Van Oostrum. In this engaging piece the instruments were closely partnered, often in the same register, sharing some rhythmically-tricky motivic material before gradually moving into separate territory and then merging once more. — Jules Langert, San Francisco Classical Voice, May 7, 2002.
Though not called such, the new works were de facto concertos, including David Rakowski's "Locking Horns" for Horn and Chamber Orchestra. Twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music, including this year, Mr. Rakowski has technique to burn. The five jam-packed movements of "Locking Horns" all begin with the same music, yet in each the materials are developed differently. In the middle movements, a horn in the chamber ensemble, annoyed by the attention the solo hornist is grabbing, attempts to usurp the starring role but ultimately fails.
Mr. Rakowski layers the score with astringent, darting, atonal counterpoint in a way that remarkably manages to keep the overlapping textures audible. Yet, "Locking Horns" lacked a convincing overall structure. Though just 15 minutes (sic), it seemed long-winded. The surprise ending — the music flutters upward then just stops midflight — sounded arbitrary. The horn soloist Daniel Grabois and the ensemble, conducted by Paul Hostetter, gave an assured and vividly colored performance. — Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, May 23, 2002.
Nonken warmed up with a couple of Etudes (2002) by David Rakowski. "Sliding Scales" is a wickedly funny parody of regimented piano practice, a manic Gradus ad Parnassum, beginning with scale patterns and gradually expanding intervals leading to some rather dangerous leaps which were executed with spectacular abandon. By way of contrast, "Twelve-Step" (sic) offers a counterpoint of lovely lyrical lines in the vein of Rakowski’s earlier piece, Nocturnal, a favorite of mine. — Jerry Kuderna, San Francisco Classical Voice, October 8, 2002.
Next of the program’s five piano trios, David Rakowski’s HyperBlue (1991-1993) was inspired by the flight patterns of birds, whose flocks, veering out of formation, become momentarily disoriented and then reconverge to continue on their path. The first of three interconnected movements exemplified this behavior, as piano and strings brushed against each other while sharing an angular, twisting line, in a blurred and fluid version of birds in flight. Then suddenly, the texture was buffeted by sharp rhythmic and harmonic accents, causing a complete breakdown, with the ensemble in seeming disarray, followed by a gradual and tentative return of the original material. These dramatic caesuras were exciting and effective, punctuating and giving needed contrast to the ongoing linear activity. In this movement the piano was the driving force, and Lois Shapiro was the dynamic performer who kept things going. — Jules Langert, San Francisco Classical Voice, November 18, 2002.
Some of the pieces in the group performed by Susan Narucki, the soprano, were more conventional art songs ... David Rakowski's "For Wittgenstein" (1996), has a propulsive, dramatic thrust. — Alan Kozinn, New York Times, November 20, 2002.
Speculum Musicae has typically explored the corner of the contemporary repertory where composers create rigorous
structures, mostly outside the bounds of tonality. This ensemble largely stayed on that path in its program at Merkin Concert Hall on Monday evening, but the players showed that this music can also crack a smile.
The curtain raiser, David Rakowski's "Gardener," is a setting of a poem by Sophie Wadsworth in which gardening and vegetable imagery morph into steamy sexuality. The soprano line, sung with presence and allure by Susan Narucki, is accompanied by perpetual-motion ensemble writing that reflects the drives of the text. — Alan Kozinn, New York Times, December 5, 2002.
David Rakowski: Etudes. Amy Dissanayake (Bridge 9121)
Don't let the silly titles of these pieces – like Fourth of Habit or The Third, Man – put you off. David Rakowski's musical wit is considerably sharper than his punning.
Piano etudes are the epitome of artistic athleticism. The composer, 45, has been writing them frequently since 1988. The 22 recorded here provide a survey of 20th-century piano technique. There are echoes of many modern composers, but Mr. Rakowski has his own, jazz-tinged voice.
Ms. Dissanayake barrels through all the difficulties without losing the sense of fun. -- Lawson Taitte, Dallas Morning News, March 23, 2003
Vermont-born composer David Rakowski, 45, studied at the New England Conservatory, Princeton and Tanglewood. He teaches composition at Brandeis University. This disc includes just less than half of the 48 piano etudes he has written to date. He has described these compelling miniatures as "brief virtuoso pieces that develop a singular idea based on some technical problem of performance or an abstract musical idea." As such, they represent a kind of compositional workshop in which he plays serious games with the ways notes are put together.
Superbly crafted, difficult to play but fun to listen to, the etudes are laced with a dry wit that is reflected in the punning titles ("You Dirty Rag," "You've Got Scale," "A Gliss Is Just a Gliss"). Rakowski's music is typically fast, jittery and jazzy, full of off-kilter rhythms and wacky surprises, yet never clever just for the sake of being clever. If you care to regard these pieces as a capsule survey of what's been going on in American music, of all kinds, over the last 30 years, I don't think he would object. Brilliant Chicago pianist Amy Dissanayake dispatches them with a kind of elegant ferocity that takes your breath away. I'm recommending this disc to everybody as a splendid introduction to a composer with a fresh, distinctive voice, whose works deserve much wider circulation. — John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, March 30, 2003.
David Rakowski's Études for piano show near boundless creativity harnessed to a delightful sense of humor, and we all know how rare this last quality is, particularly in contemporary music. The titles of the various pieces frequently offer an amusing commentary on their intent: Touch Typing is played by the two index fingers only; Plucking A brilliantly explores "inside the piano" timbres; A Gliss is Just a Gliss and the hyper-brilliant Fists of Fury are self-explanatory, while Schnozzage requires a little help from the player's nose. There are scattered references to other pieces (including a memorable vision of Purple Haze in the étude appropriately named Purple), and despite some slow bits the general impression remains of manic energy.
If there's any fly in the ointment, it may be that Rakowski could focus his ideas a little more sharply by giving the music a stronger melodic profile, though his preference for simple forms, clearly articulated, makes each piece easy enough to follow at first hearing. Amy Dissanayake does a splendid job projecting the music's wit, and her unflappable virtuosity makes even the densest writing sound effortless. Typically excellent sonics round out a marvelous disc that piano fanciers should snap up without hesitation. — David Hurwitz, Classics Today.Com, May 7, 2003.
Expert pianism graces this American's studies in fun-time and pun-time
For William Blake, exuberance rather than prudence equalled beauty and there is certainly nothing prudent about David Rakowski (b1958) and his Etudes. Expertly performed by Amy Dissanayake, an intrepid pianist, this disc contains 22 Etudes selected from a cycle-in-progress of 50 (48 down and two to go), written largely as a diversion from larger projects.
The booklet notes, which quote extensively from the composer, give you a random sense of what to expect. For Rakowski the idea was 'to play games with the way notes get put together', and he certainly is a great lover of games. This one must be played 'too fast', another 'like a bat out of hell'. The climax of No. 16 is a 'gonzo boogie-woogie from hell' composed by candlelight during a Maine ice-storm. No. 18 is inspired by a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox baseball team, while No. 11 is an Etude for the index fingers only ('pianists who wish to use more fingers may do so at their own discretion, but should be very, very ashamed'). No. 36 remembers Jimi Hendrix and his Purple Haze, No. 13 has you playing inside as well as outside the piano, while No. 22, 'Schnozzage', is written for nose as well as fingers.
Throughout, one form of inspiration is easily substituted for another ('little puffs of smoke' become 'musical fireflies' in No. 35). Less engagingly, such facetiousness seems a far cry from wit, a quality the notes compare favourably with Haydn - 'as with Haydn, the mind never stops'. There is also an unfortunate reference to Rakowski's continuation of great Etude writing, from Chopin to Ligeti. Such claims are far-fetched and although there are some relatively attractive exceptions (Nos. 14, 23, 26 and 29), few of these works achieve anything approaching the genuine order and complexity of the two composers named above.
The recordings are acceptable rather than outstanding and Dissanayake, a former student of Ursula Oppens, is clearly more than at home in Rakowski's welter of demands. - Bryce Morrison, Gramophone, June, 2003.
This one should be much smoother sailing.
These etudes by the American composer David Rakowski were written over a period of 14 years; and he continues writing them.
To me, the fascination of these etudes is to be found in their almost endless variety. The pianist, Amy Dissanayake, plays with a sure sense of understanding, 22 of them here, and they run the gamut of just about every emotion you could imagine. -- King Durkee, Copley News Service, July, 2003.
David Rakowski (b. 1958) is a composer with lots of wit and some musical depth. These 22 etudes add up to a little less than half of his entire output of same. A New Englander, he uses the writing of etudes as a way of letting off steam from other projects. The idiom is somewhat atonal but refers back to many different styles. Listening to this music without reference to the titles is not totally engrossing, since an etude is, by nature, a finger exercise. The titles to add a dimension of appreciation and often disarming humor to the situation. Hayes Biggs's detailed descriptions in the liner notes add even more, turning a potentially abstract experience into an enjoyable one.
For instance, Touch Typing is for index fingers only and is based on patterns that the budding typist would learn on a typewriter keyboard -- ASDFG, for instance. To this the composer adds a note in the music that "Players who wish to use more fingers may do so at their discretion, but should also be very, very ashamed." Then there's Schnozzage, where one is invited to employ the nose to play the melody in the middle register. The composer also suggests that "the middle part may be played instead by a second person contributing a third hand, or by an extremely well-trained pet." The music is not as crazy as these remarks might indicate, and Dissanayake plays it with great aplomb and musicality, with or without her nose. -- David Moore, American Record Guide, July-August, 2003.
Your reviewer especially liked the Rakowski and Shapiro selections. ..... Rakowski’s three selections [BAM! (1991), Nocturnal (1991), and Close Enough for Jazz (1995)] make effective colorist use of piano writing and demonstrate a nicely expressed sense of structural balance. And pieces by both composers contain a palpable level of motivic economy, confident and easy manner of melodic speech, and clear if not attention-getting sense of crafty sophistication. -- David Cleary, New Music Conoisseur, Summer 2003; also 21st Century Music, January, 2004..
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