Stefan Wolpe: Volume 8 - Music for Two Pianos
2019: The Art Music Lounge Award
Stefan Wolpe’s escape from Nazi Germany was fraught with uncertainty and danger. During the months following Hitler’s rise to power Wolpe went into hiding, while completing one of his most compelling works- the March and Variations (1932-33), a work of Beethovenian power, scored for two pianos. The piece was largely forgotten until Quattro Mani’s revival of it, and their sensational premiere recording on Bridge's Music of Stefan Wolpe, Vol. 8 (BRIDGE 9516). Wolpe’s ballet score, The Man from Midian (1942) a work based on the Old Testament, is centered around the story of Moses, and is the other major work on this disc.
The virtuoso piano duo team, Quattro Mani (Susan Grace & Steven Beck), has worked with many of today’s leading composers, and is devoted to the expansion of the repertoire for duo piano. QM’s new Wolpe disc is the duo’s 14th disc for Bridge Records.
This impressive eighth volume in Bridge’s Wolpe edition brings his 1933 March and Variations and 1936 Two Studies on Basic Rows. In between comes his ballet about Moses, The Man from Midian, premiered in 1942. The style here, as in the first item, is a muscular neoclassicism with agitprop leanings, but the Studies epitomise Wolpe’s wonderful reimagining of Schoenberg’s 12-tone technique: a bracing, masterly diptych. — Paul Driver (Sunday Times)
“Boldly original music presented in daringly vivid performances...a great triumph.” — Peter Burwasser, Fanfare
“The performances by Steven Beck and Susan Grace are exemplary for their precision and clarity, finely captured in splendid sound by Bridge.” — International Piano
“Superb performances of magnificently tangy, acerbic music.” — Colin Clarke, Fanfare
“In all of this whirlwind of music, Quattro Mani plays with a clear style, great forward momentum and energy. It is an excellent entry in Bridge’s ongoing Stefan Wolpe series.” — The Art Music Lounge
“Stefan Wolpe was a fascinating Zelig-like figure; by accident of history or exile, his life seemed destined to be intertwined with many key individuals around whom the twentieth century artistic universe revolved. A cursory glance at his biography reveals encounters with Busoni, Webern, Gropius, Klee, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Schwitters, Adorno and Cage, to name but nine. His art may have been touched by each of them, but ultimately his music is unique; driven, idealistic and passionate. I commend it to the uninitiated – this fine disc is as good a place to start as any.” — MusicWeb International
“These two extremes of Wolpe’s art – aptly represented and admirably executed by pianists Steven Beck and Susan Grace of Quattro Mani – lend themselves well to the dual keyboard medium. The most arresting and remarkable work on the record, Two Studies on Basic Rows, is delivered with analytical focus and an informed musical intelligence. The complexity of the Passacaglia, (the final track on the album), is so well conceived that the brightness and fury at the heart of Wolpe’s art can distinctly shine through." — theWholeNote
March and Variations (1932-1933)
The Man from Midian (1942) Ballet Suite in Two Movements
Two Studies on Basic Rows (1935-1936) premiere recording