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Christopher Berg is one of Lerner's favorite duo-piano partners. His Ossessione-Omaggio a Ferruccio Busoni (1989-91) is a dramatic, stylistically diverse musical étude. The score contains a quotation from Busoni's Sonatina Seconda. In many ways Berg displays a musical personality as daring and creatively original as Busoni. Like Busoni his music makes extreme demands on the performing artist. Lerner conquered the score's thunderous octaves and tone clusters brilliantly. Berg's Tango-Meditation (1986) is a darkly pensive score. Lerner combined virtuosity and musicality in equal measure. He has a deep understanding of Berg's musical idiom. Berg has written many vocal settings of poetry. His Restoration (1982; 91) is a piano transcription of a setting of a poem by Vladimir Nabokov. This is glowing, lyrical music. Lerner brought subtlety and intensity to his performance.

Romanticism was also at the heart of Poem (If By Chance) (1990) by Tison Street. The rich chromaticism of this music recalls Richard Strauss. The Room (1951) by Donald Richie is a quirky eight movement suite. This score is filled with humor and charm (including a musical allusion to Stravinsky's Petrouchka). Richie is also a gifted film maker and novelist. This inventive work makes one want to hear more of his music. The composer could not have had a more persuasive advocate than Lerner. Incitation To Desire (1984) by Chester Biscardi was part of The International Tango Collection, which featured works by eighty eight composers. Biscardi has written a sultry, modern tango -- a real charmer.

The program also featured three works by Aaron Copland (1900-1990). Lerner's four hand piano transcription of the familiar 'Variations on a Shaker Melody' from the 1944 ballet Appalachian Spring was delightful. This arrangement reimagines the music in purely pianistic terms. Lerner was joined by Howard Herring, President and CEO of the New World Symphony and a classmate of Lerner's at the Manhattan School of Music. Lerner and Herring played this Copland signature work with elegance and tonal richness. Midday Thoughts (1944; revised 1982) is a typical piece of lyrical Copland Americana. The revised version -- prepared for Lerner -- is Copland's last published opus. 'Jazzy' from Three Moods (1921) is a witty evocation of ragtime and the jazz age (complete with a Jerome Kern quotation). Lerner played this work with élan and style.

The program offered a rare opportunity to hear important works by composers who deserve to be better known. Bennett Lerner presented one of the most interesting and stimulating concerts of the season.

Copyright © 9 October 2003 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA



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