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Arthur Berger - Suite for Piano Four-Hands (1945-47)

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Uploaded on Sep 3, 2010

Arthur Berger (1912-2003)
Suite for Piano Four-Hands (1945-47)

I. Capriccio (1945) 0:00
II. Aria (1947) 3:14
III. Rondo (1945) 6:18

Rodney Lister & David Kopps, piano duet

The Capriccio of 1945 was never released for publication by Berger and was arranged by him especially for this recording at the performers' request. Its seven sections, each in a different key from the last, move through a variety of textures and tunes while sharing a common declamatory character and a narrative style drawing on both motivic and melodic resources. Its neoclassic roots show in deliberate "wrong" notes and in the return of the opening theme and key in the final section. The solo version of the Aria first appeared as the second of the five movements of Berger's 1947 Partita for piano, and was also arranged for this recording by the composer. Its two halves begin with the same slow, arpeggiated melody typical of Berger's neoclassic style: strongly lyric, yet comprised of wide diatonic intervals. In the first half this material proceeds developmentally toward a strong climax, while in the second half it leads to the eventual breaking up of the original tune and a luminous conclusion. The Rondo, originally published in 1945 as a solo work dedicated to Harold Shapero, was arranged for four hands by Berger in 1980 on the occasion of Shapero's 60th birthday. Here a long theme begins modestly in small intervals and scales before wildly devolving into large leaps in all directions, returning to steps and scales as if nothing had happened, then alternating between the two states until the larger intervals come to predominate. The interior sections of the rondo include a rough, dissonant ruvido and a delicate, clearly Stravinskian dance episode.
All three pieces reflect the strong neoclassic formal influence shaping Berger's music of the period. They also possess a distinctive quasi-tonal character deriving from a compositional technique (discussed below) resulting in diatonic seventh and added-sixth chords presented out of familiar context and intermixed with diatonic scale fragments. The two quick pieces also display the fine, lively, and engaging rhythmic sensibility distinguishing all of Berger's music from his early works to more recent ones, and what Virgil Thomson described as his "just barely concealed sidewalks-of- New-York charm." ~ DK and RL (1998)

Art: "Brace" (1962) by Robert Rauschenberg

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