The Oberlin Concertos, a new album featuring pianist Xak Bjerken has just been released. Daydreams that became reality, the album is a result of what Bjerken calls, “lucky and close friendships with supremely talented composers.”
For Bjerken, the project itself was inspired by “the need for all us pianists to have new, smaller piano concertos, portable chamber works that put the piano in a less heroic mode.” The album features pieces by Elizabeth Ogonek, Stephen Hartke, and Jesse Jones, who were “all game for the adventure.”
The first work for the project was composed by Jesse Jones and deals with the idea of “the piano as a machine -- one hears the sounds of a workshop at first -- and its transformation to a soulful, lyrical instrument.”
The second piece, Ship of State, composed by Grammy-winner composer Stephen Hartke, is described as “a wild piece based on a Longfellow poem whose central metaphor compares a ship at sea to the tribulations of democracy.”
Elizabeth Ogonek, the new composition professor in the Cornell music department, composed the final work for the album. The piece “establishes a magical landscape of unique sound combinations, with short solo interludes for [Bjerken].”
“What I am most proud of with this large project is simply the quality of the music,” says Bjerken. The album was recorded in full at Oberlin Conservatory with conductor Tim Weiss, “an ideal collaborator, responsible for inspiring a whole generation of composers and performers. I've never been involved in a project with more collective good energy and positive spirit -- truly a labor of love.”
More information about The Oberlin Concertos may be found at the Naxos website.