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Scott Watkins: Blog

Hanson, Floyd, Schirmer - No. 17

Posted on August 12, 2013
Today's recording sessions were wonderful. After a morning of microphone trials and placement experiments, the engineer, Thomas Harrison, was able to create the exact sound I was looking for.

The music for today (Hanson Sonata, Mvt. 3, Schirmer Sonata No. 17, Mvts. 2 and 3) was designed to make the first day easy. All went very well, and we got a beautiful final movement of the Hanson. Schirmer's Sonata also was a great capture. The slow movement, especially (of the Schirmer) sounds great on the outstanding piano (Shigeru-Kawai EX).

Six microphones, literally surrounding the piano, creates a full, round sound which is warm and enveloping.

Tuesday's task is a tough one: First movements of both Hanson and Floyd.

I am feeling the weight of expectation. Both the Hanson and Floyd are "premiere" recordings - that is the Hanson was once recorded (in a spectacularly beautiful performance by pianist Thomas Labe) in 2000 but based upon an incomplete manuscript. The manuscript of the completed, revised work was discovered in 2005 and subsequently published by Carl Fischer in 2011. My recording will be a first - and the weighty pressure of that is daunting.

The Carlisle Floyd Sonata is also a "first," of sorts. Amateur pianist Danielle Revenaugh made an interesting film of him being coached by Maestro Floyd in his Piano Sonata - and the DVD includes a complete performance of the work. Revenaugh is an accomplished musician, but not a pianist - he would agree with this. His noble and inspiring message is: "I hope this film will create more interest in the Sonata," called by pianist Gyorgy Sandor, "better than the Barber."

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! My former student, Peter Dutilly, once showed me a copy of the score and I initially dismissed it. My mistake. It was a wonderfully dramatic, even operatic work (who would expect anything BUT from the master - the FATHER of American Opera?). But it is technically SO difficult.

Connection: Yep, there is one! While a high school student in Ohio, I student piano with Dr. Jack Peterson, who was the piano/music theory professor at Muskingum College (now Muskingum University). He attended Florida State University in the early 1950s - as I did in the late 1980s) and studied with Edward Kilenyi (again, as I did). BUT before Kilenyi could take Peterson, my teacher studied piano with none other than CARLISLE FLOYD.

Wow! I know ... what a connection!

At any rate, the Floyd Sonata is a great work, dramatic, pianistic (it was played by Rudolf Firkusny at Carnegie Hall in 1959 - the work's dedicatee -) and moving. And quite difficult.

So, now that day one is "in the can" with satisfactory takes of Hanson 3, Schirmer 2 and 3 - it's on to Tuesday with Hanson 1 (a very demanding movement).