Throughout his life, Bernstein wrote piano pieces for family and friends to mark special occasions, from celebrating births and accomplishments to honoring friendships and memorializing deaths. He grouped 29 of those pieces into collections called “Anniversaries.” The 11 pianists who performed those and other works brought their own interpretations and flair to the scores.
In “Five Anniversaries,” Mary Ann Shoemaker teased out the first movement’s tongue-in-cheek moments, stressed the fourth’s bluesy riffs and plumbed the fifth’s poignant melodies. Similarly in several pieces from “Thirteen Anniversaries,” Francesca Hurst captured Bernstein’s musical sketches in full timbre, from the pesante yet quicksilver passagework honoring pianist William Kapell to the tender lyricism paying tribute to Broadway colleague and collaborator Stephen Sondheim. In “Seven Anniversaries,” Chloe Canton Rice played with a warm melancholic patina, achieving whispery chords in the memoriam for the wife of Bernstein’s mentor, conductor Serge Koussevitzky.
Written around 1950, “Four Sabras” has intriguing harmonies and melodic material that often imitates two people jabbering. The manuscript inspired Marta Edler to create delightful caricatures with bright rhythms, deliberate octaves and gentle lines.
Wielding a powerful technical palette, Ralitza Patcheva wrought colorful sonorities in the aptly named “Touches: Chorale, Eight Variations and Coda.” Anna Nizhegorodtseva also displayed an intense keyboard approach, generating a rumbly bass, prismatic treble melodies and evenly dispersed harmonics throughout Bernstein’s “Sonata.” JeongEun Park Kang brought micro-detailed textures to bear in Music for Dance, No. 2.