‘Richard Strauss: Solo Piano Works’ is the second installment in Carson Becke’s ongoing Richard Strauss recording project. It features music for solo piano that Strauss wrote between 1880 and 1884, between his sixteenth and twentieth years (he was born in 1864). While the piano as a solo instrument featured heavily in the music he wrote as a boy and a young man, it dropped out of his output entirely after 1884 (the Stimmungsbilder op. 9 was his last published set of piano works). In the late 1880s and early 1890s, Strauss’s compositional style began to assume the shape that it has become best remembered for, in works like Don Juan (1888), Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (1894), and Also Sprach Zarathustra (1896). The piano works of the early 1880s are decidedly conservative in nature, strongly influenced by the piano writing of Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms. Apart from being beautiful works in their own right, they also illustrate how quickly the changes in Strauss’s writing occurred, and how dramatic they were: one only has to compare the sound worlds of these intimate piano pieces to the extroverted orchestral virtuosity of Don Juan to hear this.
This CD was recorded by Ross Murray at Venturing Hills Concert Studio in December 2014, and, along with the project’s first installment (‘Richard Strauss: Lieder op. 10, 15, 17’ with Wallis Giunta) will be released on iTunes through Ulysses Arts in early 2016.