Composer Caroline Shaw describes Gustav Le Grayas “a multi-layered portrait of [Chopin’s] Op. 17 #4 using some of Chopin’s ingredients overlaid and hinged together with my own.” To me,Gustav Le Gray feels like time travel. We leave the present, return to the elegant world of Chopin, and then come back to the present, only to find it is now weighted by our encounter with the past.
This recording of Gustav Le Gray is a live, one-take, performance of the piece, recorded in my dear friend Dana Libonati's home on his beautiful 9-foot concert grand. It has all the immediacy of a live performance, including a few smudged notes, a squeaking piano bench, and (if you listen closely), the sounds of Dana’s dogs scratching on the hardwood floors in the next room. It also has the warmth I felt when playing a piece I love for a friend I love, on a cold, foggy, end-of-December day.
Gustav Le Gray caught my imagination first time I heard it on Shaw’s website and I immediately purchased a copy of it. Currently, this is the only piece she’s written for solo piano. I’m an evangelist for new music and love sharing my finds with other pianists. Perhaps if enough of us buy the piece, she may be encouraged to write another.