Piano Spectrums

New Works For Piano

Anna Kislitsyna piano

Michael Cohen composer
Richard Vella composer
Tara Guram composer
Zhiyi Wang composer
Jacob E. Goodman composer
John Robertson composer
David Nisbet Stewart composer
Carla Lucero composer
Eric Chapelle composer
Bruce Babcock composer

Release Date: April 8, 2022
Catalog #: NV6413
Format: Digital
21st Century
Solo Instrumental
Piano

Acclaimed pianist Anna Kislitsyna stuns on PIANO SPECTRUMS, a profoundly emotive selection of aesthetic contemporary pieces – and a world-class interpretation ranging from tender filigree to unbridled, seething virtuosity.

Ten contemporary composers share their works on this album with an eclectic program, both in terms of styles and subject matters. All the more outstanding, then, is how Kislitsyna scintillates with her wonderful, singing touch and musical sensitivity, effortlessly unifying ten unique voices into an album that is greater than the sum of its parts.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Prelude Michael Cohen Anna Kislitsyna, piano 3:22
02 Five Mise-en-scènes for Piano, Book Two: Mise-en-scène No. 6 Richard Vella Anna Kislitsyna, piano 1:53
03 Five Mise-en-scènes for Piano, Book Two: Mise-en-scène No. 9 Richard Vella Anna Kislitsyna, piano 6:26
04 Piano Sonata: Blue Andante Tara Guram Anna Kislitsyna, piano 1:30
05 Piano Sonata: Green Sunny Day (for Flora) Tara Guram Anna Kislitsyna, piano 1:44
06 Piano Sonata: Black Finale Tara Guram Anna Kislitsyna, piano 5:24
07 Etude for Concert Zhiyi Wang Anna Kislitsyna, piano 6:38
08 Variations on a Theme of Beethoven Jacob E. Goodman Anna Kislitsyna, piano 11:56
09 Prelude No. 5 John Robertson Anna Kislitsyna, piano 2:57
10 Prelude No. 6 John Robertson Anna Kislitsyna, piano 3:42
11 Prelude No. 2 “Summer Night” A Tango John Robertson Anna Kislitsyna, piano 2:38
12 Prelude No. 16 Haydnesque John Robertson Anna Kislitsyna, piano 4:20
13 Prelude No. 7 in F# David Nisbet Stewart Anna Kislitsyna, piano 1:39
14 Rough Trick Carla Lucero Anna Kislitsyna, piano 3:17
15 The Capture Carla Lucero Anna Kislitsyna, piano 1:50
16 Place in Landscape (Taormina) Eric Chapelle Anna Kislitsyna, piano 5:54
17 Time and Again: i. Disquietude Bruce Babcock Anna Kislitsyna, piano 3:00
18 Time and Again: ii. Tarantism Bruce Babcock Anna Kislitsyna, piano 2:55
19 Time and Again: iii. Resolve Bruce Babcock Anna Kislitsyna, piano 2:29
20 Time and Again: iv. Post-Haste Bruce Babcock Anna Kislitsyna, piano 2:23

Recorded April 19-22, July 2-3, 2021 at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport MA
Session Producer, Editing, Mixing & Mastering Brad Michel
Session Engineer Tom Stephenson

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Chris Robinson, Morgan Santos, Ivana Hauser, Quinton Blue, Jacob Smith

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Production Director Levi Brown
Production Assistant Martina Watzková

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran, Brett Iannucci
Content Manager Sara Warner

Artist Information

Anna Kislitsyna

Pianist

Pianist and harpsichordist Anna Kislitsyna made her solo debut at age 10 with the Omsk Symphony Orchestra. She remains in high demand as a soloist, collaborative pianist, and educator. Recent season highlights include five new album productions with PARMA Recordings and two release concerts in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, performing Haydn and Shostakovich Piano Concertos with Helena Symphony and Southeastern Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra, and returning to the Omsk Philharmonic as a soloist to give the inaugural performance on the new harpsichord.

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Michael Cohen

Composer

New York City native Michael Cohen has a diverse and expansive career as a composer. His many compositions include works for chamber ensemble, musical theater, opera, and television. He attended the High School of Music and Art and the Dalcroze School of Music, graduated cum laude from Brandeis University, and studied composition with Harold Shapero and Irving Fine.

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Richard Vella

Composer

Richard Vella's diverse output includes compositions for orchestra, large ensemble, choir, film, chamber music, burlesque cabaret, music theatre, contemporary opera, site-specific performances, and popular music genres. Much of his music has been performed and recorded nationally and internationally. His film credits include Light Years, Parklands, and Renzo Piano: piece by piece for which he won the 1999 Australian Screen Composer's Award for best music for a documentary. His feature film music score Travelling Light (2003) received the nomination for “Best Music for a Feature Film” by the Australian Film Institute.

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Tara Guram

Composer

Initially a geneticist, Tara Guram (b. 1971) was subsequently a prize-winning postgraduate student at the Royal College of Music. Her music has been played internationally, from the Southbank Centre to Carnegie Hall, and broadcast by the BBC. Guram's pieces have been recorded with Sargasso Records, Navona Records, Ravello Records, and NMC Recordings.

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Zhiyi Wang

Zhiyi Wang

Composer

Zhiyi Wang is a multi award-winning composer who has composed a number of works in different genres, including contemporary classical, film and TV score, modern ballet, musical, world music, and pop music. His music has been performed by prestige artists and leading ensembles including Yuri Bashmet, Lang Lang, Lorin Maazel, China National Symphony Orchestra, Brno Philharmonic, Senzoku Gakuen New Philharmonic, Moscow Soloists, Lviv Chamber Orchestra, Eighth Blackbird, Lemberg Sinfonietta, Villiers String Quartet, as well as many others throughout Asia, North America, and Europe.

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Jacob E. Goodman

Composer

Jacob E. Goodman (November 15, 1933 – October 10, 2021), founder of the New York Composers Circle in 2002, was Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the City College of New York. He studied musical composition with, among others, Ezra Laderman and David Del Tredici. His works have been performed in Delaware, Nebraska, Toronto, Buenos Aires, and Tokyo, and various venues in both New York City and the Bay Area of California. Recent compositions include a set of variations for piano trio; three song cycles; a set of variations for orchestra on a Beethoven theme; a quintet for flute, piano, and strings; a set of intermezzi for piano; a prelude for saxophone and piano; two sets of variations for piano; a duo for cello and piano; a string quartet; and three bagatelles for piano; as well as the score for the documentary film Meet Me at the Canoe, produced for the American Museum of Natural History by his daughter Naomi Goodman-Broom.

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John Robertson

John Robertson

Composer

(Ernest) John Robertson (b. 1943) was born in New Zealand but is a longtime resident of Canada. His secondary school offered music as a full time subject, allowing Robertson to find his footing. Upon leaving school, he went into the insurance business where he spent his working life. Having emigrated to Canada in 1967, he took a 3 year course of private study in the mid-1970s with Dr. Sam Dolin at the RCM in Toronto. Continuing to compose, his entry in the 1987 Composer’s Competition sponsored by the Nepean Symphony won him his first major public performance. Entries in the Canadian Contemporary Music Workshops in the late 1980s and early 1990s achieved three performances of his entries, including one at the final gala concert.

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David Nisbet Stewart

Composer

David Nisbet Stewart is a composer, pianist, and organist. His career began in academia and migrated into computer technology from 1979 onward. His style of composing also changed as he pursued a new occupation. He believes that leaving academia for the business world was a great benefit to his art. Music is the business of entertainment; the composer must satisfy, even delight, the paying audience. His compositions connect with the listener’s ear and heart.

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Carla Lucero

Carla Lucero

Composer

Originally from Los Angeles, Carla Lucero studied composition at CalArts with composers Rand Steiger, Morton Subotnick, and Leonard Rosenman. Lucero later moved to San Francisco where WUORNOS — her opera about Aileen Wuornos — premiered in 2001 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, winning “10 Best of Stage” from The Advocate and OUT magazines. She also was awarded a Creative Work Fund grant from the Walter and Elise Haas Fund for the creation of the opera.

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Eric Chapelle

Composer

Eric Chapelle was born in a village near Paris, France. Music was part of Chapelle’s life from early childhood; he was drawn to the piano in the dance hall while he was boarding in the Russian orphanage in Montgeron at a very early age. The piano soon became his outlet for creative expression and exploration of musical thoughts. Chapelle emigrated to the United States at the age of 7, and spent portions of his life in California, Texas, and India. He received his B. A. in Music with a concentration in composition from Texas State University, training under Russell Riepe, a former student of Nadia Boulanger.

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Bruce Babcock

Composer

Applauded by Aaron Copland, inspired by Desmond Tutu, and mentored by Hugo Friedhofer and Earle Hagen, Bruce Babcock has spent his working life composing music for the musicians of Los Angeles. Successful in film, television, and the concert hall, he is known for vibrant, sonorous, and expressive pieces that immerse audience members and performers alike in an inclusive and exuberant celebration of the musical art.

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Notes

Prelude was originally composed in 1957 for a student recital at Brandeis University.

When I learned that Anna was preparing an album of piano music, I wanted to be included in her album. So I revisited the piece to see if it still held up after all these years. It seemed as fresh to me now as it did 64 years ago.

I thought it would be perfect for her and I submitted it for consideration on her upcoming recital and recording.

I was delighted to learn that the piece would be included; I have always thought this piece to be the perfect “encore.”

It is short — in a simple ABA form — and it has enough variety for the performer and the audience. The first section is a jaunty tune in E major which ultimately becomes an E major scale. The B section is introspective and lyrical; an arpeggio-like figure leads us back to the A section. Just before the final bars, a pensive reference is made to the B section, followed by a flurry of notes at the end of the piece.

— Michael Cohen

Mise-en-scène No. 6 is from the second set of piano solos collectively called Five Mise-en-scènes for piano, Book Two. Book One consists of Mise-en-scènes No. 1 through 5, and Book Two consists of Mise-en-scènes No. 6 through 10. Each piano solo is based on a scene from various film and theater productions for which the composer wrote the music between 1998 and 2006.

A “mise-en-scène” is a term used in film and theater. It refers to a visual image of a situation in which all the elements in the image combine to communicate a dramatic moment. All piano solos from both Books 1 and 2 are either exact transcriptions from the original scores or arrangements to express the essence of the scenes from the film or theater productions. Hence, the use of the term mise-en-scène.

In Book Two, the piano solos mainly explore melodic elaboration and texture. Mise-en-scène No.6 is a thoroughly composed work in which the melody, played by the right hand, undergoes various transformations as it gradually moves down from the high to middle register.

– Richard Vella

An important feature of Mise-en-scéne No. 9 is textural organization and development through recombination and simultaneity. Motives from the opening textures are extended or undergo elaboration throughout the work. Within each texture of Mise-en-scéne No. 9, different approaches to harmonic organization are explored, beginning with an allusion to the overtone series followed by textures that refer to modal, tonal, atonal, and jazz harmonies.

– Richard Vella

This piano sonata explores my interpretation of three colors: blue, green and black.

The first movement, the “Blue Andante”, references both blues music, and the color blue itself as a cool, contemplative, but potentially icy color. In complete contrast to both outer movements, “Green Sunny Day” is truly happy and naive. Green — my favorite color — refers to nature here, and quite literally to the color my dog turns when she rolls in freshly cut grass! “The Black Finale” alludes to my idea of black as an enigmatic color, signifying vast nothingness, shutting your eyes, and silence. For me, this color — or lack of color — works perfectly as a description of an ending.

Further aspects of each movement are briefly described as follows:

I: “Blue Andante” is based on two elements: the descending left hand pattern of its first four bars, and the corresponding right hand melody comprising two phrases. The pianist is instructed to play nonchalantly, but actually this movement has an anxious undercurrent. The nonchalance of an unruffled stroll, the blue andante, is a facade. The incessant return of the left hand to its opening pattern, despite attempts to break free, imparts an uneasy sense of restraint. The right hand becomes increasingly fraught and spiky throughout the piece, with uncontrolled outbursts, as if slipping and falling. The final return to the initial theme is reluctantly resigned, with a reproachful, pointed, icicle ending chord.

II: “Green Sunny Day” (for Flora) is an unashamedly cartoonish, vintage jazz-influenced, and joyous expression of exuberance and optimism. It is both a reaction to the pure joy I feel watching my wonderful dog Flora live her life, and a description of Flora’s boundless enthusiasm and agility whilst running and jumping through green fields on a sunny day. There is no hidden subtext to Flora’s honest golden retriever world, or to this piece. The main theme intends to evoke the feeling of effortless, jubilant movement and flight, with motifs jumping nimbly from left to right hands. This reflects my “flying Flora” leaping through the woods and fields, and my mood soaring in turn as I watch her. The contrasting material has a tentative and exploratory feel, as if hesitantly but curiously encountering something new, and then making sense of the unfamiliar. Any reticence is quickly overcome as the main theme always returns triumphant, and its final rendition leads to a deliberately cliched, tongue-in-cheek ending flourish.

III: “Black Finale” takes the form of a funeral march. The left hand marches inexorably throughout the piece, while the right hand melody acts as a simple and solemn processional. Bell-like counter elements are introduced, and the agitated middle section gives way to descending chords and the introduction of the major third. This is intended to evoke a sense of calm acceptance and finality of descent into nothingness and peace.

— Tara Guram

Etude for Concert employs a short motif to develop a wild voyage. The piece is based on the very first three notes. Through demanding techniques and complex paces, the motif is sculpted into a rich and colorful evolution. Finally, it returns to tranquility, echoing the initial appearance.

This piece was composed when I was a 20 years old sophomore at Shanghai Conservatory. It became a phenomenon at the school after its premiere, with some students choosing it as the repertoire for their piano examination. Later, the piece won the Franz Liszt International Competition for Composers in Italy, which was my first composition prize ever in my life. I look at it as a landmark in my path of composing, and I wish to write more etudes in the future to form a series.

— Zhiyi Wang

Variations on a Theme of Beethoven was originally written in 1999 for piano and later orchestrated. The theme is taken from Beethoven’s familiar Andante Favori, WoO 57, a piece that he liked to play at salons, which was in fact the original second movement of his Waldstein Sonata before he was persuaded that the latter was too long. The variations run the gamut from late 18th to early 20th century styles, culminating in a fugue — containing a few surprises — before concluding with a restatement of the slightly altered original theme.

— Jacob E. Goodman

These four pieces are from the composer’s two books of piano preludes. Op. 31 #5 is a sprightly piece, slightly jazzy with a more lyrical episode in the middle which still maintains the momentum the piece has. By contrast, Op. 31 #6 is gently melancholy with its one theme presented with varying counterpoints and a turn to the major as a contrast. Op. 31 #2, a tango, suggests a lazy summer evening, suave and sultry. Op 51 #7 “Haydnesque” is an homage to one of Robertson’s favorite composers, the somewhat neglected Joseph Haydn. The piece is made up of variations on a tune that Haydn himself might have penned were he around now, with the theme variously decorated, and one dramatic variation in the minor for contrast.

— John Robertson

Three decades ago, I set out to compose a piano prelude on each of the twelve keys of the chromatic scale. I am a pianist and organist, and I enjoy writing pieces I can play myself. This project has stretched out over the years as it got interrupted by opportunities to compose other larger works.

Starting with C as No. 1, I got to No. 7 in F# in 2011. My pieces are so chromatic that I do not distinguish between major or minor modes, and No. 7 is very nearly atonal. It came as a sudden inspiration, a short burst of improvisation, only 1:40 long.

I was delighted when PARMA approached me with the idea of a piano recital by Anna Kislitsyna since I had this piece ready. We already had some rapport; Anna has played my music before with Trio Casals and Ovidiu Marinescu, and I knew she could nail it.

The prelude is in two sections with the first repeated. The tempo is marked “Vivo – Play as fast as you can; no need to keep a steady beat.” The dynamics are indicated “da [from] P a [to] F ad. lib. [at liberty]. The pedaling is at liberty.

The first section features fast runs on the black keys of the piano (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#) which are found in the key of F# major. Accented longer notes on the white keys enter in counterpoint. The meter alternates between 4/4 (duple) and 6/8 (triple). The section dissolves into octave triplets on the white keys, ending on a high A. It is perpetual motion to this point, where there is a short rest and a repeat sign.

The second section similarly starts with fast runs, only on the white keys. The contour of the melody is inverted and works down to the bass level instead of up to the treble. The contrasting accented notes are on both black keys and white keys. The octave triplets concluding the piece are E, B, and F#, confirming the tonality.

— David Nisbet Stewart

The tragic story of Aileen Wuornos, crowned in the media as “the first female serial killer in America,” moved me to create the opera, WUORNOS. She suffered horrific child abuse and neglect, and then lived her life as a sex worker on the highways of Florida.

WUORNOS takes a hard look at the consequences of the unhealed life of one woman after every system fails her, from childhood to her execution at the age of 46 in 2002. She was tried by the news media and exploited by her own lawyer, her lover, and others who sought money and fame. Her PTSD was never considered a factor in her case, nor were the prior violent criminal offenses of her victims. Sadly, Wuornos is merely a symptom of societal atrocities inflicted upon women and children for centuries.

In “Rough Trick,” Wuornos struggles to reconcile her two existences as a sex worker and as a partner to the woman she loves, who eventually contributes to her demise via lethal injection by the State of Florida. In “The Capture,” after being on the run for weeks, Wuornos is arrested at the only place that gives her sanctuary in the end, a biker bar called “The Last Resort.”

The opera premiered in 2001 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Originally a grand opera, WUORNOS was created for a 30-piece orchestra, a cast of 12, and a chorus of 12. In subsequent years, various sections of the opera have been performed and recorded with different instrumentation and in several countries throughout the world.

It is with great pleasure that I created these solo piano arrangements for the magnificent pianist, Anna Kislitsyna.

— Carla Lucero

One summer many years ago I visited Taormina, a honey-colored hillside town in eastern Sicily. One of the most vivid experiences I had there was taking a walk along a path on the edge of a cliff with a view of the Mediterranean Sea. At one point, I stopped and looked at the vast body of water, which stretched all the way to the horizon. I noticed patterns of light on the water that seemed to shift with the currents and the deepening sky. Far below, the waves lapped against the shore, their sound rising in a quiet murmur to where I stood watching. It was mesmerizing and beautiful to witness such an event.

Years later I thought about the experience I had that evening, watching the water off the coast of Taormina. That was the inspiration to improvise at the piano, a Steinway baby grand that I had at the time. This composition is the result of those improvisations, beautifully interpreted here by Anna Kislitsyna. I was aiming for a meditative state that nature can induce in us as we appreciate its beauty. In this piece, I was trying to emulate the flow of the water, its subtle shades of turquoise, cobalt, and violet, constantly changing as dusk progressed toward evening. Part of the composition has long pauses, reminiscent of how the water behaved, seeming to stand still momentarily, but soon resuming its gentle movement.

— Eric Chapelle

Time and Again is a piano sonata in four movements composed for my friend and colleague Anna Kislitsyna. The word Time in the title refers to the extraordinarily surreal pandemic year of 2020, and the word Again refers to my second opportunity to work with Anna. Anna and Ovidiu Marinescu recorded my sonata for cello and piano, Imagined/Remembered for Navona Records, and performed it at Carnegie Hall in 2018.

Having never composed music during a global pandemic before, the movement titles reflect the strangeness of what became our new normal.

First, an opening movement characterized by a feeling of disquietude, followed by an odd tarantella. A tarantella was thought to be a cure for tarantism, a psychological illness characterized by an extreme impulse to dance, prevalent in southern Italy from the 15th to the 17th century, and widely — but erroneously — believed at the time to have been caused by the bite of a tarantula.

The third movement provides a calm and reflective respite from the storm, followed by a frantic and fast fury away from — or towards — the unknown future.

— Bruce Babcock