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Phillip RAMEY (b. 1939)
Piano Music - Volume Two: 1966-2007

Diversions (1966) [10:16]
Epigrams, Book One (1967) [12:24]
Leningrad Rag (Mutations on Scott Joplin) (1972) [2:39]
Winter Nocturne (2003) [4:11]
Toccata No. 1 (1986) [2:29]
Ode for F. D. R. (2004) [5:27]
Toccata No. 2 (1990) [4:21]
Piano Sonata No. 4 (1987-88) [20:35]
Primitivo (2007) [1:34]
Mirian Conti (piano)
rec. 29-31 October 2007 Patrych Sound Studios, Bronx, New York

Experience Classicsonline

American Phillip Ramey’s musical output is primarily for piano. Born in 1939, he studied with Alexander Tcherepnin in Nice and Chicago. He later continued his studies at Columbia University. This is the second disc to showcase his piano works. The first (Toccata 0029) included performances of three sonatas (1, 2, 5) and this includes Sonata 4, along with other short pieces. The influence of Prokofiev’s music for piano—namely the motoric tendencies of his music, as well as his irreverent tone—can be heard throughout the disc, from the nonstop movement and extreme range of Ramey’s Toccata No. 1 to the introspective Ode for F. D. R of 2004, which is steeped in the sound-world of Prokofiev’s 8th piano sonata. Opening the disc, Ramey’s Diversions, composed shortly after his years at Columbia university, culminates in an all-out commandeering of Prokofiev’s Toccata for piano.

Book one of Epigrams, eleven pieces of between thirty seconds to one-and-a-half minutes, is more enigmatic in tone. These remind one of moments from Feldman’s Triadic Memories as much as from Hindemith filled with flinty dissonance, strangely insinuating twelve-tone rows, and occasional grandiose statements. The composer stated that these were composed under the cajoling of Aaron Copland, who encouraged him to explore twelve-tone writing. This element of his composition was encouraged by one of his other instructors, Alexander Tcherepnin, who also employed a semi-serial style.

No doubt one of the tracks on this disc that will grab people is the Leningrad Rag of 1972, which bends The Gladiolus Rag through the lens of chord clusters and other modern tricks. The overall effect is that the Gladiolus is somehow melting and fragmenting at once—a bewildering and fun romp.

The other large-scale work on this disc is the fourth piano sonata, of the late eighties, in two movements. The opening andante subtitled Monologue with Arabesques, has singing lines over repeated dark chords in the left hand, calling to mind elements of Prokofiev’s Sarcasms as well as the disquieting beauty of the centre movement of Prokofiev’s Op. 29. The closing second movement—over twice as long as the first—plays with a theme borrowed from his mentor Tcherepnin, combined with a four-note motto. The liner notes give insight as to the construction of this piece and are extremely informative. In addition is a brief commentary by the performer on Ramey’s piano music. Recorded in the presence of the composer, these appear to be the definitive performances of these pieces. The sound quality is very good, and Conti’s performances are assured. Certainly recommended for fans of Alexander Tcherepnin and Prokofiev. Considering that Piano Sonata 3 is not yet released, and there are approximately fifty Ramey piano compositions, we have more discs in this series to look forward to. More please!

David Blomenberg





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