In 2017, I curated a piano festival called “Dialogues” at UCLA. During this festival, students and faculty performed new works that responded to music of the past. I have been drawn to this “response” genre since premiering the complete 13 Ways of Looking at the Goldberg, responses to Bach’s Aria. This work was written for Gilbert Kalish, one of my teachers, and I am deeply grateful to him for introducing me not only to the piece but to the “response” idea. I am drawn to it because it creates a bridge between the past and the present, illuminating the canon of piano repertoire while opening the stage to bright new voices.
For the festival, I asked six composers from the UCLA faculty—Peter Golub, Tamir Hendelman, Richard Danielpour, Ian Krouse, Mark Carlson, and David Lefkowitz—to respond to 6 Bagatelles Opus 126, the last work Beethoven wrote for the piano. This group of six pieces fascinates me with its childlike wonder, wit, moodiness, charm, rhythmic energy, transcendence, and experimentation. The responses are tumultuously contrapuntal, multilayered, humorously whimsical, jazzy, sweetly sensuous, and dark. Interspersing the new Bagatelles with the original felt like the most organic way to present them in performance and in this recording. I hope that the emerging dialogue between then and now highlights the unique character of the original while forming a wholly new sonic adventure.
Wanting to enlarge the scope of the project, I turned to an iconic triptych of the piano repertoire—Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit (“Ondine,” “Le Gibet,” and “Scarbo”), a work that I recorded in 2008 and have frequently performed. Like the Beethoven Bagatelles, Ravel’s masterpiece is richly experimental and full of sonic contrasts and innovative effects. The original is itself a response to the poetry of Aloysius Bertrand; it was interesting to continue the chain of responses to the evocative subjects: Ondine, the sensuous water nymph, Gibet, the hypnotic, almost minimalistic gallows, and the diabolical, virtuosic imp Scarbo. It is considered one of the most pianistically challenging works in the repertoire, and I wanted responses that would be challenging and rich, as well. With the help of Yamaha Artist Services and UCLA’s Davise Fund, I turned to three composers—Paola Prestini, Timo Andres, and Billy Childs—who, I felt, would respond powerfully to the individual qualities in each of the Ravel pieces. The resulting pieces stand on their own as powerful additions to the piano repertoire. While responding to and elaborating on qualities singular to Ravel, they can be performed as individual works or a coherent suite.
I am humbled and grateful to these nine brilliant composers who have responded with such passion and dedication to these great works from the piano repertoire.
The recording was completed during the challenging time of the 2019-2020 COVID pandemic quarantine. Postponing initial sessions from March 2020, when the quarantine began, to September 2020, I went ahead to continue the project in the only physically-possible manner available to us. I recorded the music, both audio and MIDI versions, at UCLA, with the Disklavier Yamaha DCFX concert grand, while alone in the studio. Then, the MIDI files were edited over many Zoom hours, with me in LA and Aaron Ross at Yamaha Artist Services in NYC, and rerecorded in NYC with the help of my audio engineer, producer, and longtime friend Joseph Patrych. The resulting performance is a combination of MIDI and audio recordings, and many hours of cross-country Zoom calls. This complex, multi-layered response project came to be, despite the pandemic. It was deeply gratifying to musically and spiritually connect with so many, during a most lonesome and precarious time in our history. I am grateful to every person who has made this project possible.
— Inna Faliks, Feb 2021