Sunday, April 30, 2017

Etudes, No. 2 and No. 3 by Scott Pender

Scott Pender's Etudes are an on-going project for me--these beautiful pieces are the two latest that I learned and recorded.  They're both one-take recordings (no edits) due to Scott's expert use of the pedal and the fact that there are no rests in either piece.

Scott describes Etude No. 2, "Counterfeits of the Past" as having echoes of Chopin and Scriabin, "sounding slightly out of place, old and new at the same time."  The title comes from a quote by Victor Hugo: "The counterfeits of the past take assumed names, and are fond of calling themselves the future.

Etude No. 3 is an expansive, touching homage (in the form of variations) to the great American composer Lou Harrison.

You can order sheet music of Scott's Etudes here:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Suite for Guitar and Piano by Jason Heald

I met composer Jason Heald because I was looking for a gig.  I landed the gig, and got much more than a concert date.  In addition to becoming one of my friends, Jason is a prolific and talented composer.  He writes musicals  He writes choral pieces.  He writes cabaret. He writes instrumental pieces. Jason does all this while maintaining a full-time job as as academic.  I don't know when (if?) he sleeps.

Several years ago, Jason wrote a five-movement suite for guitar and piano for my friend, classical guitarist Pamela Goldsmith, and me.  We've performed it many times, and several years ago recorded it.  The entire suite is lovely, but these two movements are my favorites.

There aren't enough pieces written for guitar and piano.  It's a tough combination.  Jason's suite is idiomatic for both instruments, and he has found a way to balance the two elegantly. He does all this while writing approachable, audience-friendly music.

To get a copy of this music, visit Jason's website:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Gazebo Dances by John Corigliano

OK, this is for all you lovers of 4-hand piano music: the Tarantella from John Corigliano's Gazebo Dances.  It's the last movement of this suite, and it's a musical thrill ride for performers and audience alike.

My duet partner, Molly Wheeler, and I recorded this suite (along with Piazzolla tangos, and Barber's Souvenirs) several years ago on our album, "2 to Tango: Music for Piano Duet."  This Tarantella is one of the pieces we end up closing concerts with--even when we don't program the entire suite.

For those new to John Corigliano, he is an American composer who writes for a myriad of instruments, but is best known for writing the score to the movie The Red Violin. His compositions have won him the Pulitzer Prize, five Grammy Awards, Grawemery Award for Music Composition, and an Oscar.  Not too shabby for a composer who composes smart music with a great tune and a beat.

To order this piece (and to peruse his other works):

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Incitation to Desire by Chester Biscardi

This one had me at the title.  And once I heard Yvar Mikhashoff's recording of it, I special ordered the sheet music, determined to learn it as soon as possible.  Sadly, "as soon as possible" proved to be over a decade later, but it eventually found its way into my repertoire and I've performed it several times, most recently this concert recording.

Incitation to Desire should be played almost as an improvisation--just the same way that the Argentinian tango is danced.  It's the pianist and the piano and the interplay of notes--sensuous, slinky, unapologetic.  Chester Biscardi, the composer, asks for a flexible interpretation of dynamics and tempi.  In layman's terms, this piece needs to be played from the senses, not the brain; instinct, not reason.

Chet and I had a brief email exchange shortly after I first posted this video to another website.  He wrote to thank me for my performance of the piece--a gracious gesture from a composer who has had his music played and recorded by fine musicians all over the globe.  My next Biscardi project? Learn his In Time's Unfolding. 

To purchase Chester Biscardi's music (and to learn more about him), visit his website:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Etudes, No. 1 and No. 6 by Scott Pender

I've known composer Scott Pender for over twenty years, but we've never met.  I first heard one of his pieces, "Ms. Jackson Dances for the People," on a fantastic compilation CD of piano tangos entitled Incitation to Desire.  At that time, "Ms. Jackson" wasn't published, so I wrote to Scott and asked him if he'd sell me a copy.  He obliged, and since then, I've played almost everything he's written for the piano, including the world premier of his Three Impromptus in 2015, on a live radio concert on  During that performance, I was given the chance to interview Scott on-air, over the phone.  It was the first time we ever spoke to each other.

Scott writes music that contains elements of minimalism, romanticism, and thorny, modern rhythms.  He has a gift for melody.  Over the past few years, I've been adding his Etudes to my repertoire.  These two are the first ones I learned; the rest will show up in future blogs.

Both of these pieces were recorded in concert, and both were well received by a largely non-classical audience.  Etude No. 6, "North Train", was a particular favorite.  Scott's pieces appeal to trained musicians because it is sophisticated and well-crafted; they appeal to the average listener because they contain great tunes and funky beats.

To order copies:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Circle-Maker by Joel Pierson

In 2009, I had the life-changing opportunity to work for 4 months as a piano instructor on a world cruise.  In addition to seeing Fiji and Russia during the same trip, meeting friends who are still part of my life today, and having more fun than should be legal, I discovered a composer who writes the sort of music I love to play.

Joel Pierson was the ship orchestra's pianist and in that capacity performed everything from classical to show tunes to pop, to jazz .  His compositions reflect his eclectic influences.  Case in point: Joel currently lives in New York City, where he's formed a group that performs his jazz arrangements of (wait for it) cartoon music.  Check them out at

I've performed quite a few of Joel's pieces, but The Circle Maker is my favorite. This video is one I put together shortly after I recorded and released A Spin on It.  The glaciers?  Shots I took from the deck of the ship when we were in Glacier Bay, AK.

To listen to more of Joel's music, or to order copies: