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Luminous Piano Music June 27, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Music, Nature.

After posting some sunlight-themed poetry yesterday I decided to find some “luminous” piano music for a companion post. I’ve collected some of my favorites here. All of these pieces immediately struck me with their sense of light embodied in sound: openness, freshness, clarity and pure, translucent color…

I’ll begin with the prelude and  fugue in A major by Shostakovich from his collection of 24 preludes and fugues. Listening to this fugue I imagine myself as a young child watching a mobile of crystal prisms spin around and round, throwing multicolored rainbows of light upon the walls with colours that merge and shift seamlessly to form new combinations…

The best recording I have heard of this piece is far and away the one by Keith Jarrett (rather surprisingly, primarily a jazz pianist); his tone colour is remarkable in its purity and sense of light. However, as Jarrett’s is not publicly available I figure Sviatoslav Richter always makes a pretty good fallback… 😀

Now for some early-morning Liszt…”Au Bord d’Une Source”, or “By the Side of a Spring.” Imagine a pure mountain spring as it bubbles in the delicate sunlight of a new day, each water droplet casting reflected gleams over the surrounding grass and stray drips landing on your outstretched hands… (Pianist: Lazar Berman)

Next: Debussy’s “Les Collines d’Anacapri”…not reflected or colored light this time, but the pure, brilliant blazing sunlight of a scorching Mediterranean afternoon, the brilliant blue of the arching sky almost painful to look at in its fierce luminosity. (The opening notes in my mind one of the most beautiful moments in all piano music :)) (Pianist: Michelangeli, breathtaking for his pure, crystalline tone color.)

And finally…a bit more Liszt for sunset: “Harmonies du Soir” (Evening Harmonies), one of my favorite piano pieces of all time, portraying the sunset sky flaming with color. One can almost hear trumpets and drums sounding in the radiance. (This, the longest of his Transcendental Etudes, is 9 minutes long; the whole thing makes wonderful listening but the true “sunset” section begins around 5:10.) (Pianist: Minoru Nojima – a truly amazing pianist who deserves to be much better known).

There’s one more “luminous” piece that I love but I’m saving it for an encore post tomorrow 🙂 ….



1. khaze - June 27, 2010

Keith Jarrett also does a stunning job with Bach’s French Suites.

Shostakovich got that “kunst der fuge” feeling right, that’s for sure.

2. Lux Aeterna (or, Some Thoughts on Dawn-Watching) « The Contrapuntal Platypus - June 29, 2010

[…] Aeterna (or, Some Thoughts on Dawn-Watching) …The promised sequel to “Luminous Piano Music“, with a bonus: some reflections written last September and reposted […]

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