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A study of the solo piano works by Owen Middleton (b. 1941): with a recording of selected works from 1962-1993

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Owen Middleton (b. 1941) enjoys an established and growing reputation as a composer of classical guitar music, but his works for piano are comparatively little known. The close investigation offered

Owen Middleton (b. 1941) enjoys an established and growing reputation as a composer of classical guitar music, but his works for piano are comparatively little known. The close investigation offered here of Middleton's works for piano reveals the same impressive craftsmanship, compelling character, and innovative spirit found in his works for guitar. Indeed, the only significant thing Middleton's piano music currently lacks is the well-deserved attention of professional players and a wider audience. Middleton's piano music needs to be heard, not just discussed, so one of this document's purposes is to provide a recorded sample of his piano works. While the overall repertoire for solo piano is vast, and new works become established in that repertoire with increasing difficulty, Middleton's piano works have a significant potential to find their way into the concert hall as well as the private teaching studio. His solo piano music is highly effective, well suited to the instrument, and, perhaps most importantly, fresh sounding and truly original. His pedagogical works are of equal value. Middleton's piano music offers something for everyone: there one finds daring virtuosity, effusions of passion, intellectual force, colorful imagery, poetry, humor, and even a degree of idiomatic innovation. This study aims to reveal key aspects of the composer's musical style, especially his style of piano writing, and to provide pianists with helpful analytical, technical, and interpretive insights. These descriptions of the music are supported with recorded examples, selected from the works for solo piano written between 1962 and 1993: Sonata for Piano, Childhood Scenes, Katie's Collection, and Toccata for Piano. The complete scores of the recorded works are included in the appendix. A chapter briefly describing the piano pieces since 1993 concludes the study and invites the reader to further investigations of this unique and important body of work.

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Date Created
  • 2011

Nikolai Kapustin's solo piano works 2007-2013: a recording and performance guide

Description

Born in 1937, the Ukrainian-Russian composer Nikolai Kapustin has gradually gained recognition among Western music scholars and pianists by blending American jazz idioms into classical forms, such as concertos, sonatas,

Born in 1937, the Ukrainian-Russian composer Nikolai Kapustin has gradually gained recognition among Western music scholars and pianists by blending American jazz idioms into classical forms, such as concertos, sonatas, and preludes; recently he has become a very prominent composer. As one of the most prolific composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, he has composed over 160 works to date. Most of them are piano solo works. The uniqueness of his compositional philosophy is that he consistently treats the music language of jazz as a core element in all his output, while others might only use jazz idioms experimentally in their works.

Being an excellent pianist himself, Kapustin has recorded many of his own works, giving a firsthand reference for interpreting his piano music. Some of his most famous works, including the Variations, Op. 41, the Eight Concert Etudes, Op. 40, and the 24 Preludes in Jazz Style, Op. 53 have been recorded by other prominent artists, such as Steven Osborne and Marc-Andre Hamelin.

Scholarly research on Kapustin’s piano works remains limited. Most of it is found in journal articles and dissertations. Unfortunately, all of them are focused on his early popular works. His more recent works from 2007-2013: the Six Little Pieces, Op. 133, Dialogue, Op. 148, Etude Courte mais Transcendante pour piano, Op. 149, Nobody Is Perfect, Op. 151, A Pianist In Jeopardy, Op. 152, and Wandering, Op. 153, have not yet been discussed in any scholarly writing.

In brief, the purpose of this study is to present a first recording of these six major solo works, and to examine them in a research paper. The paper discusses Kapustin’s consistent use of jazz elements in his recent works, addresses musical and technical concerns in their performance practice, and facilitates more extended study of these valuable but yet to be recorded works.

The paper consists of eight parts. The first part covers brief background information on the composer, as well as reviewing important jazz features, in order to more effectively analyze his stylistic language in the six compositions which are explored in the subsequent chapters including a conclusion.

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  • 2018