JOHANNES BRAHMS Klavierstücke, Op. 119
Toward the end of his life, Brahms returned to the characteristically Romantic genre of the instrumental "character" piece, a time-honored vehicle for distilling a particular mood or musical idea to its essence in compact form. The four miniature masterpieces that Op. 119 comprises are the composer's last works for solo piano.
GYÖRGY KURTÁG Selections from Játékok
György Kurtág's Játékok—the name means "games" in Hungarian—are playfully imaginative creations with a serious pedagogical purpose. As explorations of piano sound and technique, they belong to a long tradition of such pieces in the keyboard literature, from Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier to Bartók's Mikrokosmos.
FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN Nocturnes, Op. 62; Polonaise-fantaisie in A-flat Major, Op. 61
Chopin revolutionized piano writing through dozens of nocturnes, waltzes, mazurkas, and other solo pieces that imbued the brilliance of the salon style with unprecedented poetic depth. Robert Schumann, himself a master of character pieces, extolled Chopin's music, in which, he wrote, "imagination and technique share dominion side by side."
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 27 in E Minor, Op. 90; Piano Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53, "Waldstein"
Beethoven's contribution to the piano literature was equally revolutionary, in terms of both conception and technique. These two sonatas, written a decade apart, trace the composer's evolution from the brilliant "heroic" style of his so-called middle period to the denser, knottier idiom of his late-period works.