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Music for Keyboard Instruments

Cover Design: Catherine Eckersley & Allen Bring

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Catalog Number: CPS-8679
Audio Format: Digital Stereo
Playing Time: 60:47
Release Date: 2000

Track Listing & Audio Samples
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Five Pieces (15:10)
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    Genevieve Chinn, piano
  6-8. Tre esercizi (13:13)
    Bradley Brookshire, harpsichord
    Sonatine (1972)
  9. First movement (1:47)
  10. Second movement (2:26)
  11. Third movement (2:19)
    Allen Brings, piano
    Six Praeludia
  12. Praeludium (1:40)
  13. Praeludium I (3:01)
  14. Praeludium (3:01)
  15. Praeludium II (2:22)
  16. Praeludium (1:34)
  17. Praeludium (1:42)
    Stephen Tharp, organ
    Concerto da camera No. 4 (1994)
  18. First movement (4:31)
  19. Second movement (8:01)
  20. Third movement (4:43)
    Sebu Sirinian, Robin Bushman, Mitsuru Tsubota, violins I
    Lisa Tipton, Vivienne Kim, Chris Lee, violins II
    Liuh-Wen Ting, Sally Shumway, violas
    Wolfram Koessel, Wanda Glowacka, cellos
    Jack Kulowitsch, double bass
    Allen Brings, conductor



Also Available on Capstone:

Allen Brings: Music da camera


Related Links
Allen Brings



20th Century Music - by Mark Alburger

"Despite the complexities often offered, there is something in Western music that suggests getting down to the basics when composing keyboard music. There are no color supplements or distractions (depending on the point of view). It's all about pitch and rhythm, line and harmony and form. So we're happy to report that Allen Brings brings the right stuff to the table when that table is full of keys — be they of the piano, harpsichord, or organ.

The composer characterizes Five Pieces (1980) as pianistically "serious divertimenti," and he's got that paradox right. In the related piano Sonatine (1972), he worries that there "have been many Kalkbrenners of every Chopin," but, hey! perhaps another paradox is that the Kalkbrenners write pretty well, too...

Medium remains a powerful notion, however, because the coloristic tendencies of harpsichord and organ bring us completely into other worlds. The environment is a skeletal one in the harpsichordic Tre esercizi (1986, the title is after D. Scarlatti) — with its second-movement grim-reaper steady bass flanked by active, truculent outer exercises — but warmed and punched up quite a bit by string ensemble in Concerto da Camera No. 4 with its baroque-and-Bartók overtones. The soundscape turns another corner in the austere, grim, flamboyant, and liturgical Six Praeludia for organ.

The performers — pianists Genevieve Chinn and Brings, harpsichordist Bradley Brookshire, organist Stephen Tharp, and a string ensemble under the composer's direction — carry off all with aplomb."


The American Organist - October 2001 - by Michael Barone

"Born in 1934 and both a Queens College graduate and present faculty member, Professor Brings studied with Otto Luening, Gardner Read, and Roger Sessions. He has published dozens of rigorous and imaginative works for various instruments and ensembles in an "avowedly late 20th-century idiom." Daniel Pinkham and Ned Rorem write in a similar style. Though Bring's contrapuntal textures may not easily beguile the ear, these works do impress both on initial hearing and after repeated listening. The first of the Praeludia was composed for the wedding of some friends, and the subsquent movements were created "to provide church organists with music that could be played before, during, and after the liturgy." This may be the first CD appearance of Gene Bedient's important instrument built for LeFrak Hall at CUNY's Aaron Copland School of Music. It is an organ thoroughly appropriate for these works, and Mr. Tharp plays it with grace and good spirit. The other compositions are worthwhile, too, and are also well performed."


ComposerUSA - Fall 2000 - by Marshall Bialosky

"Capstone Records, under the generous and imaginative leadership of Richard Brooks, has been flooding my mailbox with all its latest issues. One disc that has stood out, at least for me, is Music for Keyboard Instruments with compositions entirely by Allen Brings, the well-known Professor of Music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in Flushing, New York. Brings shows his very impressive versatility on this disc as he appears in the roles of composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher, the last through his candid and very informative booklet notes for the CD. He even helped design the CD cover. The program here offers and interesting variety of keyboard sounds moving from piano to harpsichord, back to piano, then on to organ, and finally a harpsichord concerto with string accompaniment, conducted by the composer, that might well be the beset American harpsichord concerto on the market today.

While some of Capstone's records, particularly those featuring electronic music, seem very separated from the history of music, almost as though they are creating some sub-musical genre of their own, this one strikes at least on listener as a true extension of the traditions of music. Admitted by the composer himself, we hear "continuations" here of Bach, Purcell, Scarlatti, a touch of Messiaen, that are in no way "copies" or "plagiarisms," but genuine extensions of main line music history. There is a real composer's voice here with no padding, no filler, no unnecessary notes. He says what he has to say and then stops. No grandiose posturings or insincere gestures occur in this music.

The two most important pieces on the disc are the opening Five Pieces (1980) for piano in which the composer says "I believe that I have revealed more of my innermost thoughts than in anything else I have written." The five contrasting movements of this piece are very idiomatically written for the piano and would definitely reward the pianist willing to undertake them. Their clear contrasts and appropriate length should make them attractive to audiences as well. The concluding piece, Concerto da camera #4, wonderfully solves the problem of balancing the harpsichord against a string orchestra. Inspired by hearing music for a similar combination by Bach at the La Fenice Theatre in Venice, the composer has learned the older master's lesson well. The two participants never get in each other's way and the soloist is never obscured by the orchestra.

Brings has been well served on this CD by Genevieve Chin, pianist, Bradley Brookshire, harpsichordist, and Stephen Tharp, organist. Need an unusual gift for a musical friend during the holidays? Get this: Capstone 8679."


New Music Connoisseur - Vol. 9, No. 2 - by Laurie Hudicek

"Allen Brings seems quite comfortable composing for all types of keyboard instruments. This recording includes works for piano, harpsichord, organ, and chamber ensemble, and one can hear more than traces of the composer throughout. After the first hearing of the CD, this listener was exhausted and could only imagine the fatigue of the performers. The music possesses such an unyielding drive that, whatever the composer's intent, it may be lost on us before we ever get to the last work. But after several hearings Brings' voice became amazingly clear to me, and the gems in his music, not readily apparent upon first acquaintance, were now quite recognizable. For it's obvious that Brings looks back and takes classical forms as structure for his works. Although the harmonies he chooses are much more suited to this past century, his pieces seem to marry the past with the present to create an unusually perplexing offspring.

Five Pieces (1980) for piano is described by the composer as a "very serious divertimento," with the two outer movements being "tempestuous," the second and fourth movements being more "intimate," and the third being a scherzo, thus creating a type of arch form. The odd-numbered pieces are played breathlessly by Chinn. Each could be classified a perpetual motion work with little rhythmic variety, but a tirelessly driving regularity. The second and fourth pieces, however, are brimming with beautiful, yet haunting, harmonies that seem to stray. Brings' other piece for piano, Sonatine (1972), played by the composer, is remarkably similar to Five Pieces because of the presence of the monotonous driving rhythms and roving harmonies. According to Brings, there is no system to the harmonies he uses, but to the listener this can sometimes create a feeling of harmonic wandering. These two characteristics do more than foreshadow the works to come.

Amazingly, Brings has clearly defined his own voice within the first 10 minutes of this recording, and it is reincarnated in the harpsichord pieces Tre esercizi (1986). Brookshire is also subjected to the fixed rhythm of the composer. These pieces, inspired by Scarlatti, Purcell, Bach, and others of that period, are highly contrapuntal and imitative, and the middle movement is built upon a ground bass. Frankly, this listener finds it eerie to hear the harmonies of today subjected to the forms and instrument treatments of 300 years ago. Although this is not uncommon with today's composers, it seems Brings is trying to resurrect those Baroque masters, and the result is a macabre vision!

The first of Six Praeludia for Organ (1991-93) was composed for a wedding, but the following five pieces were intended for church organists to play before, during, and after the liturgy. Each hints of Brings' nomadic harmonies (the first has an astonishing G major chord at the end!), and exhausting tempi. However, the character of these pieces is similar to the previous works, evocative and eerie, with glimmers of the unknown. One might imagine the reaction of the little old blue-haired lady in the front pew during the service where the organist played Brings' music. This listener would love to attend a service such as this! Perhaps we need a 20th-century church and mass to go with this music. Luckily, Brings intends that it be performed in recital, for which it is best suited. So far on this recording, Brings delves into the past for his structure, searches the outer limits for his harmonies, and yet seems to shun the 20th century altogether when it comes to those impossible rhythms we pianists love to hate.

However, this is not an entire blessing, for Brings challenges his performer's stamina and gives the words "perpetual motion" a new meaning.

The final work on this recording, Concerto da camera No. 4 for harpsichord and strings (1994), is by far the most passionately performed, rhythmically diverse, and harmonically compelling of all the works. While there are traces of that undying rhythmic uniformity in the harpsichord, the strings add long-awaited color changes, both sensuous and exotic.

In the classically standard three-movement form, this concerto displays a deeper side of the composer. Particularly, the opening statement of the second movement passacaglia is breathtakingly presented in the bass. One can finally feel at ease with Brings' never ending quest to unite the past and present. This is clearly his most thought-provoking work, one that certainly makes this recording worth owning!"