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Solo Piano Works by 7 American Women

Composer Ruth Schonthal writes, " "Chopin's Preludes have always been my ideal of expressiveness, conciseness, and beauty. With In Homage of... 24 Preludes, [1978] I am paying homage to him and other composers (Bartok, Hindemith, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff) who wrote idiomatic piano music. Some of the allusions are loving, some serious, some humorous. The effect is often very fleeting, romantic in content, impressionistic in treatment, with twentieth century harmonies and sensibilities incorporated. To compensate for the extreme brevity of some of the Preludes, there are cyclical textural cross references. The intention is to form one long listening experience consisting of many short contrasting and complementary components."

Fantasy Quasi Theme and Variations, Sheila Silver's first solo piano work, (1980) was written for Aaron Copland's 80th birthday. Inspired by Copland's landmark Variations for piano, written when he first felt that he had found his own personal style after returning from Paris, Silver takes the hard-edged four-note motive of the Copland and remanipulates the pitches, transforming the bold, dissonant strains of the Copland to a more contemplative, expansive character. After elaborating on Copland's theme, she writes a rhapsodic variation on her elaboration, with fluid passages in a rather Romantic style. Copland's piece is very angular: Silver claims that she is filling in the angles, making her piece "soft and voluptuous," and in the process, writing the lyrical variation that Copland did not.

Diane Thome's Pianismus (1980) provides a nostalgic journey through the tonal tradition with references to the variation forms found in Haydn, Schumann and Brahms, with an admiring sidelong glance at some outstanding contributions of Debussy, Carter, and Copland. The piece identifies itself with classical forms in its adherence to traditional performance techniques and its form as structured theme, variations and finale.

Stefania de Kenessey's Sunburst, Op. 33 (1993) takes its title from the bright, almost explosive opening theme. Centered around the key of F Major, its musical language is both challenging to the performer and accessible to the listener. This virtuosic work employs a modified sonata form, with modal rather than tonal relationships.

Vivian Adelberg Adelberg's Rebecca's Suite consists of Rebecca's Rainbow Racing Among the Stars (1991) and Rebecca's Song (1989),both written as a memorial tribute to Rebecca Blackwell, a little girl who died of cancer at the age of 18 months. The composer writes that the first piece is impressionistic in sonority, portraying "Rebecca darting up above the sky, here, there, playing cheerfully, sparkling with the stars, to show all below that everything is 'OK,' and she's alright," while the second is lush and romantic with Lisztian and Mahlerian overtones, representing the "sweet beauty of her brief life, the love she brought to her family, and the wistful sadness that she is no longer with us."

Three Preludes, Op. 68 (1994) by Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee explore the interval of the fourth in various combinations. The outer preludes are extroverted in character with lyrical alternating materials, while the middle one is an introspective meditation on sonorities of fourths and fifths. A two-piano version, premiered in Hungary in 1996, is also available.

Emma Lou Diemer's Fantasy for Piano (1993) is a romantic work in one movement, and has several sections that contrast in mood and tempo. The sections can be described briefly, in order, as broad and expressive, dance-like, very slow and quiet, playful, again broad and expressive, florid and rapid. Some of the ideas are treated cyclically. In addition to more traditional scalar and chordal materials developed in the work, there are two constructions that are important: a tone row that appears in the left hand at the end of the slow section and in the following "playful" section, and a rhythmic series that occurs often as a substitute for a meter and is expressed in durations and groupings of 8th notes.

­Nanette Kaplan Solomon



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