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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Saturday, July 26, 2014

JOHN MUSTO "Piano Concertos No. 1 & 2; Two Concert Rags" (Bridge)

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Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014 5:00 am

The American composer John Musto, born in 1954, is acknowledged as one of the finest vocal composers of his generation, but his capabilities extend to instrumental works as well. He also proves a virtuoso pianist in this CD, playing both of his piano concertos plus two concert rags for solo piano. The Concerto No. 1, from 1988 (revised 2005), is a big, rangy piece cut from rather Brahmsian cloth, especially in its brooding first movement, while its powerful finale admits more French influence. Next comes what he calls “a Mahlerian rag,” again working up to high emotions. If the piano is closely integrated with the orchestra throughout the First Concerto, the Second (from 2006) displays more typical contrast between the soloist and the orchestra. The climate is far sunnier — modernist and wildly entertaining, a bit in the tradition of Prokofiev or, in places, Bernstein. The capable assisting orchestras are, for the First Concerto, the Odense Symphony conducted by Scott Yoo, and for the Second, the Greeley (Colorado) Philharmonic conducted by Glen Cortese. The two solo concert rags are worthy of standing with the splendid modern contributions to the ragtime repertoire by such figures as William Bolcom and William Albright. “Regrets” is an introspective meditation that wafts through surprising modulations, while “In Stride” evokes the toe-tapping style of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. 

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