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Music We Love Now: Three Must-Hear Piano Albums

Ingolf Wunder pays tribute to 300 years of keyboard music on his new album <em>300</em>.
Patrick Walter
Ingolf Wunder pays tribute to 300 years of keyboard music on his new album 300.

The young Austrian pianist Ingolf Wunder shines in Mozart, Jorge Federico Osorio reintroduces an intoxicating Mexican concerto and Elisveta Blumina reveals the gentle side of Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov.

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Hear the Music

Valentin Silvestrov: Naive Music - 'Idyll'

From 'Silvestrov: Piano Works'

By Elisaveta Blumina

As a member of the so-called "Kiev avant-garde," the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov had a tough time getting his music heard in the conservative Soviet era. But in the 1980s, as his reputation spread, performances began piling up outside his native land. Today, Silvestrov might be best known for his radiant choral songs and his Fifth Symphony, often compared to Mahler, but in recent years he's concentrated on simple piano miniatures. Pianist Elisveta Blumina's enjoyable new album sports several world premiere recordings, including Naïve Music, a set of seven short pieces Silvestrov wrote in the 1950s and revised 40 years later. "Idyll" unfolds innocently in sunny arppegios, hovering over a simple tune until a counter melody takes over and the cycle gently restarts.

Mozart: Sonata in B-flat, K.333 - 'Allegretto grazioso'

From '300'

By Ingolf Wunder

Ingolf Wunder's new album is brought to you by the number 300. It represents the three-century span of keyboard literature,from Scarlatti to John Williams, Wunder chose for this album. It also coincides with the 28-year-old Austrian pianist's 300th performance this season. Wunder came to the piano late (at 14) but has made up for lost time, snagging second prize at the 2010 Chopin Competition. On 300, the playing is assured, elegant and appropriately pyrotechnical in show-stoppers like Moszkowski's Étincelles and Arcadi Volodos' arrangement of Mozart's Rondo "Alla Turca." But it's the unadorned Mozart Sonata in B-flat, K. 333 that reveals Wunder's real gift, a limpid, unforced melodic line filled with charm. Wunder's name means miracle in German — an apt moniker for playing this wunderbar.

Carlos Chávez: Piano Concerto - 'Largo non troppo - Allegro agitato'

From 'Carlos Chavez: Piano Concerto'

By Jorge Federico Osorio

Our southern neighbors have a distinguished classical music tradition too, with no composer more celebrated than Carlos Chávez. Largely self-taught, Chavez almost single-handedly created a national sound for Mexico. This new album spotlights Chavez's Piano Concerto from 1940, a rich example of his signature blend of Western traditions with exotic rhythms and scales evoking his beloved pre-Columbian culture. The opening movement is a bustling hive of sweeping strings, folk-like percussion and episodes for the piano that range from romantic to virtuosic to jazz-inflected. Pianist Jorge Federico Osorio's fingers are almost constantly in motion and conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto expertly guides this wonderful and unwieldy piece with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, the ensemble Chavez founded in 1947.

Tom Huizenga
Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.