ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Michael White - Piano Music


MICHAEL WHITE - Solo Piano Music - Piano Quartet - Mirian Conti (Piano) - 034061122029 - Released: October 2010 - Albany 1220

The music of Chicago born composer Michael White bears the stamp of the many influential forces in his life. He studied composition under Vittorio Rieti, himself a student of Respighi, and with Persichetti and Mennin. He frequented popular jazz clubs in his hometown to take in the music of the jazz piano giants of the day, and like all American musicians he has always been in love with the music of Bernstein, Barber and Copland.

And the wonderful little Adagio from the opening Sonatina from 2009, demonstrates how well he has absorbed all these various components and fashioned them into his own design. An underlying bluesy melancholy co-existing with clustered chords bearing orchestral colors, and a quasi-Scriabinesque harmonic inclination all merging to form an effective and captivating piece of music. The Titania's Love-Dream taken from the Scenes from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" lets the influence of Debussy's "Preludes" shine through, while the Sprites and Goblins from the same group, seems to mimic the same composer's "Children's Corner Suite". And at the other end of the spectrum, there is the Gigue from his 2008 Partita, built on fine-tuned counterpoint. All of the piano works on this new recording were written for pianist Mirian Conti, so who better to play them. Her solid recording and teaching background help her bring the proper insights and emotional emphasis necessary to these pieces.

Sonatina (2009)
Nocturne & Tango (1990)
Scenes from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (2008)
Partita (2008)
Four Fantasies (2009)
Piano Quartet (2007)

Michael White himself notes that Wagner and Liszt both considered the string quartet "dead", and that many intelligent critics have also proclaimed the demise of the Piano Quartet, and therefore decided to write his own Piano Quartet to prove all of them wrong. And prove them wrong he does. He, like many other composers, demonstrates that with a small ensemble of instruments, a composer's mastery can really shine through. Without having to fuss over a myriad of orchestration details when writing for a full orchestra, or the right balance of voice and orchestral forces when writing an opera, the composer can therefore apply all of his/her concentration, on the musical discourse. Even though this chamber work consists of only one movement lasting a mere 10 minutes, it packs that short time interval with inventive and powerful music that keeps Mirian Conti (Piano), Kinga Augustyn (Violin), Wei-Yang Andy Lin (Viola) and Andrew Janss (Cello) moving through various emotional states until they all rush head-first into the final gripping moments.

Jean-Yves Duperron - October 2010