Babbitt 102 - A Centenary Celebration

Brahms – Fantasias Op.116

Scriabin – Sonata No. 5

Schoenberg – Klavierstück Op.33a

Babbitt – Reflections for Piano and Synthesized Tape

Babbitt – Canonical Form (commissioned for Robert Taub by the Fromm Foundation)

Beethoven – Sonata Op. 53 “Waldstein”

Pre-concert informal talk:

“Why We Play.”  All music was once new; some pieces fade, others transcend time.  Why?  How does an iconoclast – like Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, or Babbitt – fit into this spectrum?

Post-concert discussion: Questions and Answers.


I studied composition with Milton Babbitt both as an undergrad at Princeton, and as a graduate student at Juilliard.  Also at Juilliard, I worked up the courage to learn one of his piano pieces, and haven’t looked back since.   Prior to performing Milton’s piano works in public, I would play them through for him personally – an incomparable series of experiences in which he shared his musical thoughts and insights about his own works, and also about works of other composers that he valued.  Milton Babbitt spoke often about the “continuum of music” – a spectrum of musical development and perception starting with Bach and continuing through Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and the 2nd Viennese School to the present.  These programs are meant to celebrate Babbitt’s pivotal contributions within this rich panorama, and to highlight certain works and composers he especially valued. 

Milton spoke passionately of the Brahms’ late piano works as concentrated miniatures, as close to perfection as a piece of music can be.  He also revered the music of Schoenberg and was fascinated by Scriabin, and had an encyclopedic knowledge of Beethoven Piano Sonatas, string quartets, and symphonies.  He and I agreed that the Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata was pivotal in Beethoven’s oeuvre – it was with this piece that Beethoven entered into heretofore uncharted compositional musical territory.  And when I was learning Milton’s Piano Concerto No.2 and played through the piano part for him for the first time, he referred to one particularly lyrical section as “the Chopin Nocturne part of this piece.”

I try to imbue old music with freshness, as it was once new and often revolutionary; and try to play new music with the conviction that it is already classic.  I shared this idea with Milton: “play old music as if it’s new, and new music as if it’s old.”  He approved.


Additional detailed program notes available upon request.