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Orion Weiss: Arc II

First Hand Records

Arc II—Orion Weiss, piano (First Hand Records 128)
Orion Weiss points out that the themes uniting the selections by Ravel, Brahms and Shostakoich on this disc have to do with emotions associated with the two World Wars of the 20th century and during times of grief generally. Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin—so full of contradictions: new and ancient, exotic and formal, joyful and haunting—was dedicated to friends of the composer who had died in WWI. Dmitri Shostakovich’s Second Piano Sonata of 1943 was dedicated to the memory of his beloved former piano teacher Leonid Nikolayev. The works by Johannes Brahms were even more peronal in nature. His Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann were written right after he had been more or less adopted by the Schumann family—Robert, Clara and their seven children. The variations are simultaneously an homage to Robert and a first love letter to Clara. They were also a letter of condolences to the Schumanns, as Robert had just attempted suicide and been institutionalized. The album concludes with two chorale preludes for organ—arranged for piano by Brahms’s great admirer Ferruccio Busoni. These come from the end of the composer’s life when he was sick and bereft of his longtime friend Clara. The titles of the chorales tell you all you need to know: “My Heart is Filled with Longing” and “O World, I Must Leave You.”