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ClassicsOnline Home » CURRIER, S.: Piano Music (Melton) - Piano Sonata / Departures and Arrivals / Scarlatti Cadences / Brainstorm
Recipient of the prestigious Grawemeyer and Academy Awards, among other prizes and fellowships, Sebastian Currier composes ‘music with a distinctive voice’ (The New York Times) that is ‘lyrical, colorful, firmly rooted in tradition, but absolutely new’ (The Washington Post). It has been performed at major venues worldwide by acclaimed artists and orchestras. Whether inspired by Bach, Beethoven and Hindemith (Piano Sonata), playing with Scarlattian formulas, stirring up a satirical Brainstorm, or pondering on his compositional choices (Departures and Arrivals), Currier engages the listener’s head and heart. Laura Melton’s Naxos recording of Samuel Adler’s piano music ( href="/catalogue/product.aspx?pid=8.559602">8.559602) was praised by Fanfare as ‘expert and excellent’.
By Vivien Schweitzer
The New York Times
Sebastian Currier (b. 1959)
Sebastian Currier is the 2007 recipient of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award. His music has been performed at major venues worldwide by acclaimed artists and orchestras. His violin concerto, Time Machines, is scheduled to have its première with the New York Philharmonic and soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter in the 2010–11 season. Recordings include a CD of string quartets by the Cassatt Quartet, a CD of mixed chamber music by Music From Copland House, and a DVD of his multimedia work, Nightmaze for Bridge Records. He has received many prestigious awards, including the Berlin Prize, Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Residencies include the MacDowell and Yaddo colonies. His works are published by Boosey & Hawkes.
Piano Sonata (1988)
Written while Currier was a doctoral student at The Juilliard School, the Piano Sonata is in five movements: Bold and Defiant, Fragile (with outbursts), Anxious, Suppressed, and Multifarious. In this highly dramatic piece Currier pays tribute to Beethoven in several ways, not the least of which is the motivic development (each movement is based on the same three-note motive). Structurally the sonata is very clear, with the opening movement in sonata-allegro form, the third movement resembling a scherzo-trio movement, and slower, more distant interludes in the second and fourth movements. The finale is, by far, the largest in scope and intensity, a theme and variations replete with two fugues. There are other influences evident, that of Bach and Hindemith, in the contrapuntal writing and the harmonic passages of stacked fourths. Currier has written a work filled with emotionally charged music, allowing the pianist free rein to play with passion and intensity.
— Laura Melton
Departures and Arrivals (2007)
There is a feeling I have when writing music that whenever I make a choice about something, even if relatively small, that had I chosen differently, I would have sent the piece off in another direction: the piece I finally write is the path I cut through this virtual forest of alternatives. Departures and Arrivals mirrors this process. Each of the six movements is an alternative path that starts with the same material. In this way, one could think of Departures and Arrivals not so much as six independent movements, but as six alternate versions of the same piece. In the first three pieces (a tune, a shift, a dialogue) this is quite literal: all start the same way (or nearly the same), but then branch off in different directions. In the following three pieces (a transformation, a reconfiguration, a glimpse) this process is somewhat abstracted: in these instances the beginning material is either transformed or repositioned—but again, this is like the actual process of composing where the first idea one thinks of is not necessarily the first idea one ultimately hears.
Scarlatti Cadences (1996) and Brainstorm (1994)
Although brought together as a set of complimentary short piano pieces, Scarlatti Cadences and Brainstorm each has an independent genesis. Scarlatti Cadences was written for pianist Emma Tahmizian. The outer sections take “Scarlatti-like” cadential formulas and expand upon them, creating delicate, sonorous and ephemeral textures, while the middle section emulates the percussive drive of many a Scarlatti sonata. Brainstorm, written for pianist John Kamitsuka, was written while I was in residence at the American Academy in Rome and dedicated to the then United States ambassador to Italy, Ambassador Bartholomew. The piece constantly interweaves tonally ambiguous chromaticism with simple diatonic progressions in a satirical and sometimes raucous manner. It is in this combining of diverse, even opposing harmonic materials that the two pieces, Scarlatti Cadences and Brainstorm, come together and share a common thread. As a set, the work was premiered at the 2005 Van Cliburn Competition.
— Sebastian Currier
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