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A few words about my arrangements….
In addition to receiving magnificent international classical piano training, I began grandstanding improvisations from an early age. It all stemmed from my attempt to improve on the simplistic arrangements in my music books – I wanted to sound like the lush full orchestras on records! And so I developed this over-the-top style of bravura solo playing, and devised vehicles for myself of familiar pieces transformed into showstoppers.
The first two selections on this recording are based on tenor opera arias. I like starting concerts with Léhar’s old chestnut Dein ist Mein Ganzes Herz, which means “Yours is my heart alone,” because that’s exactly how I feel about you, the audience! Puccini’s Nessun Dorma is one of the most famous passages in all opera. Its message of hope and triumph moves me every time.
I have two favorite songs, and the Baroque aria Caro Mio Ben is one of them. The heartbreaking lyric is a declaration of unrequited love. Accordingly, I have fashioned an intense dramatic setting to reinvent this sweet melody by Giordani.
Next I offer some arrangements based on American folk music. The Stephen Foster Medley is a travelogue that begins in Alabama with a girl named Susannah, heads east to the Swanee River, then up north to my old Kentucky home, and finally farther west to the Camptown races!
For the beloved old hymn Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing, I utilize the imagery of the fountain in the title as my creative point of departure, while trying to capture the text’s meaning in passages like the sudden burst of anguish at “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it” in the third stanza.
I have always loved Malotte’s majestic setting of The Lord's Prayer. My arrangement is intended as a meditation on those profound words. The same is true for Joy To The World, which is best understood with the four stanzas of Isaac Watts’ great Christmas poem in front of you. On the other hand, it is a jubilant phantasmagoria of notes with which I have been breaking pianos worldwide since age 15, so maybe just brace yourself and hold on for the ride!
Is there any anthem more inspiring than the Rodgers-&-Hammerstein classic Climb Ev'ry Mountain? Enough said.
If there is any song I wish I had actually written, it’s Music of the Night, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s celebration of the rapturous and arcane. Some say he stole a phrase or two from Puccini, but who cares? It’s just about the most glorious show tune of them all.
I wanted to include one live track on this album, so my Irving Berlin Medley, recorded before an enthusiastic crowd at Miami University in 2011, fills the bill. This medley bookends two lovely standards, Blue Skies and Let’s Face the Music and Dance, between two quintessential expressions of the jazz age, Puttin’ On the Ritz and Alexander’s Ragtime Band.
My other favorite song is the penultimate track on this album, Ol’ Man River from Show Boat. This iconic soliloquy about the search for meaning and purpose expresses my own world view with one of the most beautiful melodies ever composed.
I close this program with my most frequently requested piece, the Happy Birthday Variations, in which I have subjected the thrice-familiar ditty to treatment in the styles of various composers and popular music genres, from the sublime Mozart to the ribald Burlesque.
I hope you enjoy every note, and that’s a lot of enjoyment!….