My Cup Runneth Over- the Complete Piano Works of R. Nathaniel Dett

My Cup Runneth Over – the Complete Piano Works of R. Nathaniel Dett, released in November 2015, is the culmination of a 3-year project of research and performing.

Dett’s piano suites embrace almost all of his creative life, from Magnolia, written soon after his graduation from Oberlin, to the Eight Bible Vignettes, written during the last two years of his life. They show a great development, variety and richness of style; truly reflecting his struggles, triumphs, and deepening philosophical interests.

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Gramophone UK  Editor’s Choice for January 2016:

The piano works of Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) span his entire creative life, from early ragtime influences to the complexity and substance of his final works for the instrument. Given his importance as one of the first composers of African descent to achieve a sophisticated and serious fusion of Negro folk music and spirituals with European art-music traditions, not to mention his skills as a concert pianist, it’s surprising that no one until Clipper Erickson has essayed Dett’s complete piano output on disc. However, the wait was worth it, for this music is simply wonderful, while Erickson’s idiomatic, colourful, technically adroit and caring interpretations do the repertoire full justice. While one easily perceives Dett’s stylistic influences, the music’s consistent creativity always holds interest, even in such early pieces as the Magnolia Suite (1912); it’s hard not to get pulled into The Deserted Cabin’s brooding atmosphere and dark bass-register chords or the quirky virtuoso outbursts that keep you guessing in The Place Where the Rainbow Ends. No less a figure than Percy Grainger championed In the Bottoms (1913), from which he recorded the sprightly yet demanding Juba Dance that Erickson so dashingly tosses off.

With the two four-movement suites Enchantment (1922) and Cinnamon Grove (1928), Dett’s harmonic and textural palette considerably expands, while Tropic Winter (1938) conveys both charm and contrapuntal refinement. However, Dett’s valedictory Eight Bible Vignettes digs deepest of all. The seventh piece, ‘Other Sheep’, is a nearly-10-minute masterpiece packed with intensely lyrical polyphony, jagged declamatory unison statements, percussive passages and the kind of gravitas one finds in Brahms’ late piano pieces. This historically and musically important release not only fulfills a crucial catalogue gap but sets reference standards. No serious aficionado of the history of American piano music can afford to miss it.

Jed Distler
Editor, Gramophone UK – January 2016

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Listen Now:

Playlist:

R. Nathaniel Dett
(1882-1943)

Magnolia Suite
In the Bottoms
Enchantment
Nepenthe and the Muse
Cinnamon Grove
Tropic Winter
Eight Bible Vignettes
After the Cake Walk
Cave of the Winds
Inspiration Waltzes

Release Date: November 13, 2015
Catalog #: NV6013

“This is some of the most enjoyable, stylistically varied, and individual music I’ve heard in a while.  I can’t think of any music-loving friend I wouldn’t recommend it to.  Erickson, a student of John Ogdon, is simply a fabulous pianist, the perfect guide to Dett.

American Record Guide – February 2016

My Cup Runneth Over offers a wonderful overview of R. Nathaniel Dett’s captivating solo piano compositions, magnificently performed Clipper Erickson. A hearty bravo is in order—may these works find their way onto more recital programs!

BlackGrooves – June 2016

Tableau, Tempest, and Tango

Tableau, Tempest and Tango – images, drama, power, intensity, color, and dance!  All these things make for great music. My latest CD project expresses my passion for putting together masterpieces of the past with great works from our era, whose roots grow from them.   David Finko and Richard Brodhead are great living composers. The images in their music reflect the ultimate work of images in music: Pictures at an Exhibition. This project makes this dream into a reality.

David Finko’s works are intimately connected with Russian history.  He grew up in Leningrad; his father held a top-secret post as a submarine designer for the Soviet Navy. The Fantasia on a Medieval Russian Theme is a narrative in music about the Mongol invasion and eventual triumph of Russia.  David also loves Yiddish culture – Sonata #1 wonderfully portrays the art of Soviet actor and director Solomon Mikhoels.  His Sonatas #2 and #3 were written after his coming to the United States.  He is now 81; I promised him that he would live to see and hear his piano works preserved.

Richard Brodhead is composer emeritus at Temple University in Philadelphia.  His works express an extraordinary command of pianistic color and fantasy.  Una Carta de Buenos Aires, Tango Sonatina was written in 2011 for me and is inspired by Latin tango dance – His wife is a dancer and choreographer.  His Sonata Notturna magically evokes the night, it’s sounds, and experiences.  The power and intensity of David’s music contrasts ideally with the color and delicacy of Richard’s.

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Listen Now:

Playlist:

David Finko (1936-)

Fantasia on a Medieval Russian Theme (1961)
Sonata No. 1 “Solomon Mikhoels” (1964)
Sonata No. 2 (1998)
Sonata No. 3 (2009)

Richard Brodhead (1947-)

Una Carta de Buenos Aires – Tango Sonatina for Piano (2011)
Sonata Notturna – Piano Sonata No. 2 (2016)

Modest Mussorgsky
(1839-1881) 

Pictures at an Exhibition

Release Date: July 13, 2018
Catalog #: NV6170

REVIEWED IN FANFARE

TABLEAU TEMPEST & TANGO BY NAVONA RECORDS
Clipper Erickson, piano

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.

One of the finest pianists of his generation … Highest recommendation.

He plays “pictorially” throughout the work, including just about the most ferocious-sounding “Baba-Yaga” on recording, and the most resplendent “Great Gate” imaginable…a superior recording, worthy to stand alongside the best of the many fine recordings of this masterpiece.

David Canfield – Fanfare

… an incredible recording. The bells in Great Gate are amazing and even Debussyian in their evocativeness. You can even hear the “orchestration” in your playing…a fountain of colour which is present in every work recorded. I just loved all of it.

         Kevin Wood, former director of Artists and Repertoire – Sony Classical

(Fantasia on a Medieval Russian Theme) – Erickson fearlessly tackles its knotty polyphonic textures while imbuing his interpretation with world-weary resignation.

Erickson’s rich palette of tonal colours bring each of the 16 imagistic sections to life, ending on a triumphant note with The Great Gate at Kiev that always quickens the pulse and stirs the soul

Holly Harris – Winnipeg Free Press

(Pictures at an Exhibition) This frequently recorded piece can amazingly still be interpreted anew…the pianist astounds us with his phrasings, tempi, rubati and grasp which have a very personal character.  An interesting interpretation which gives each scene its individual character! … truly worth hearing

(Brodhead Sonata Notturna) wonderfully touching and exciting interpretation

Norbert Tischer – Pizzicato

…a special gift for giving lesser-known works their due. Read more…

Erickson reads a great deal of personal content into this familiar work and draws philosophical connections from its program to Finko’s compositions.

Alex Baran – The Whole Note

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