Navona Records artist Clipper Erickson presents a solo piano album of works by composers Richard Brodhead (1947- ), David Finko (1936-), and Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) entitled TABLEAU TEMPEST & TANGO.
The mostly Russian-themed album climaxes with Erickson’s masterful interpretation of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The original version for solo piano precedes the iconic orchestrations by many composers, most notably Maurice Ravel. For Erickson, the piano is his orchestra, and he conducts it marvelously through every movement, down to the famed finale, The Great Gate of Kiev.
Stellar, too, is Erickson’s interpretation of Finko’s Fantasia on a Medieval Russian Theme, which is inspired by a grievous poem about the oppression of the Russian people. Mussorgsky also used this poem, incorporating it as part of the libretto for the Act I choral scene of his Khovanshchina (1880).
The severity, which is truly captured in Finko’s fantasy, is made spiritual by Erickson’s interpretation. Finko’s Sonata No. 1 Solomon Mikhoels is next. It has folk roots–budding from the composer’s interest in Yiddish and Slavic cultures. Erickson executes the polarity in dynamic contrast and rhythmic complexity with incredible manual dexterity. Finko writes that his Sonata No. 2 “expresses the acute feelings of a sensitive intellectual who goes through several stages of personal sufferings and struggle.” This journey is demonstrated by Erickson’s acute attention to mood, even in the subtlest of harmonic progressions. Finko’s Sonata No. 3, composed in 2009, is evocative of the evolution of the composer’s technique since his first sonata in 1964. Erickson, too, shows an evolution — the melodies become more fluid, the separation between each note more precise.
The listener is transported to Argentina where Erickson presents Richard Brodhead’s Una Carta de Buenos Aires, a truly dark tango. It is mysterious and vacant, but Erickson handles it like a delicate flower. The finale is Brodhead’s Sonata No. 2, Sonata Notturna, dark, too, in its presentation, but Erickson’s light shines on the meditation of terrors we hear at night.
As evidenced on his previous recording, 2015’s MY CUP RUNNETH OVER, Professor Erickson’s prodigious performances are not only products of his superior musicianship, but also the in-depth studies he completes on every work performed. This is the best collection of such works to date. TABLEAU TEMPEST & TANGO is a must-have for the collections of piano dilettantes and savants alike. As the LA Times notes, Erickson plays “with extraordinary dash and power and he never let[s] flamboyance obscure art.”