Academic journal article Notes

Valentine: For Piano = Für Klavier/Three Character Studies: For Piano Solo/Saloon Songs: For Solo Piano

Academic journal article Notes

Valentine: For Piano = Für Klavier/Three Character Studies: For Piano Solo/Saloon Songs: For Solo Piano

Article excerpt


Fred Hersch. Valentine: For Piano = Für Klavier. New York: C. F. Peters, 2011. [Composer's note, 1 p.; score, p. 1-3; biog. sketch, 1 p. ISMN-13 979-0-3007-5763-6, pub. no. EP 68328. $9.]

Fred Hersch. Three Character Studies: For Piano Solo. New York: C. F. Peters, 2002. [Composer's note on t.p. verso; score, p. 2-15; biog. sketch, 1 p. Pub. no. EP 68046. $12.95.]

Fred Hersch. Saloon Songs: For Solo Piano. New York: C. F. Peters, 2005. [Composer's note, 1 p.; score, p. 2-33; biog. sketch, 1 p. Pub. no. EP 68107. $12.95.]

Fred Hersch. 24 Variations on a Bach Chorale: Piano Solo. New York: C. F. Peters, 2002. [Composer's note on t.p. verso; score, p. 1-56; biog. sketch, 1 p. Pub. no. EP 68105. $24.]

For those of us familiar with the exquisite pianism of Fred Hersch and his formidable improvisational prowess, the publication of his Valentine, Three Character Studies, Saloon Songs, and 24 Variations on a Bach Chorale, handsomely edited by Edition Peters, calls for a big celebration. Those unfamiliar with Hersch's music will find these titles surprisingly refreshing, musically demanding, intrinsically pianistic, and welcoming in the flooded market of often-dubious publications of fully notated piano compositions.

Hersch is a pianist par excellence. His elegant sound esthetic, lavish harmonic vocabulary, intricate contrapuntal thinking, effortless musical flow, impeccable sense of musical form, and unconstrained forays into the depths of his boundless creativity can be enjoyed on his many fine recordings. A widely recognizable fixture in the pantheon of jazz pianists, Hersch is a sought-after teacher, composer, bandleader, accompanist, and mentor. As Hersch's followers grow in number and become ever so eager to learn from the master, the publications of these original compositions could not have been better timed. Now, by purchasing any or all of these titles, musical aficionados can experience the magic of Hersch's music in the privacy of their own studios.

At times interpretatively and technically demanding, these compositions-full of innate melodic charm, harmonic richness, rhythmic vitality, and structural perfection- ought to be attractive to classical pianists, and thus should provide a delightful addition to their repertoires. Jazz pianists will definitely rejoice at the publication of these titles, as they offer a wealth of crucial information-an encrypted DNA-about the Herschian style: his compositional methods, techniques of improvisation, and different musical influences. A careful study and subsequent performance of these selections can even reveal the mystery of the creative moment that always accompanies Hersch's live performances and captivates his audiences all over the world. In addition to classical and jazz pianists, these publications can also be appreciated by music theorists and musicologists, who can investigate a new repertory, apply their methodologies, and find new ways of speculating about the role of improvisation in composition, sketch studies, and the psychology of the creative moment, among other topics.

One of the published pieces, Valentine, received a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Composition in 2008. Melodically unrestrained, harmonically rich, and-as always the case with Hersch's compositions-musically challenging, Valen tine provides a fitting introduction to Hersch's pianism at its most intimate. The published arrangement does not significantly depart from a version that Hersch often plays as an encore during his recitals, save the solo section, which is curiously omitted from the printed edition.

Three Character Studies is the composer's first set of fully notated piano pieces, each addressing a particular aspect of piano playing. "Nocturne for the Left Hand Alone," dedicated to his longtime piano teacher, the legendary Sophia Rosoff, opens the triptych. In that piece, Hersch follows in the footsteps of other composers (Johannes Brahms, Aleksandr Scriabin, and Maurice Ravel) who contributed to the repertory for the left hand alone. …

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