David Del Tredici composer
Beth Levin piano
BRIGHT CIRCLE is an exquisitely programmed showcase of the interconnectivity underlying the tradition of solo piano in Classical music. Pianist Beth Levin shines as she navigates the romantic masterpieces of Schubert and Brahms, and their very new counterpart – David Del Tredici’s 2014 work, Ode To Music.
Levin’s performance is particularly remarkable in the way she places the Del Tredici within the context of Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 20 and Brahms’ Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel. Del Tredici’s music is an excellent choice to be set alongside two romantic stalwarts, as it aims to recapture the expressive language of nineteenth century European composers.
Beyond this general association, all three works on BRIGHT CIRCLE truly are kindred spirits. Schubert and Brahms belong to the same tradition of German romanticism that arose and matured in the early- and mid-nineteenth century. Ode to Music is a fantasy on Schubert’s art song An die Musik. Essentially, BRIGHT CIRCLE is defined by music that takes older ideas and reconstitutes them in a new, transformative setting. This is certainly the case with Brahms’ Variations, which serves as BRIGHT CIRCLE’s backbone.
By the time Brahms set to work on this piece in the late 1850s, large sets of variations for piano were a common form for Romantic composers to flex their muscles. However, Brahms departed from the grandeur typical of these precedents – namely, Beethoven’s famed Diabelli Variations – and challenged himself to study and assimilate aspects of Baroque forms into his treatment of Handel’s theme. The melody at the heart of the variations originated in a work for harpsichord, and Brahms’ appreciation of this fact is evident in restrained virtuosity of his piano writing.