Pianist Orion Weiss to Release ARC II: RAVEL, BRAHMS, SHOSTAKOVICH On First Hand Records

In this combination of works, Weiss follows the paths these composers walked in their own grief as their tracks lead us from death back towards life.

By: Oct. 03, 2022
Pianist Orion Weiss to Release ARC II: RAVEL, BRAHMS, SHOSTAKOVICH On First Hand Records

On Friday, November 11, 2022, acclaimed pianist Orion Weiss will release his new album, Arc II: Ravel, Brahms, Shostakovich, on First Hand Records. Featuring performances of Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Schumann and Chorale Preludes Nos. 10 & 11, and Shostakovich's Piano Sonata No. 2, Arc II is the second album of a three-part series and strives to understand the varying ways composers comprehend grief, loss, and death. In this combination of works, Weiss follows the paths these composers walked in their own grief as their tracks lead us from death back towards life, from horror to hope.

The first release of Orion Weiss's Arc trilogy - Arc I: Granados, Janáček, Scriabin - was released in March 2022 on First Hand Records and features important works for solo piano from the frantic years of 1911-1913 - the precipice before World War I. The three musical stories on Arc I, described by The Guardian as "complex and poetic material," are Granados' Goyescas, Janáček's In the Mists, and Scriabin's Piano Sonata No. 9 "Black Mass," each struggling with the same impossible awareness of what was coming for the world. The series closes with Arc III: Schubert, Debussy, Brahms, Dohnányi, and Talma - works composed during times of joy - forthcoming on First Hand Records.

"As we grieve what was lost, music born of suffering can bring us courage and succor," says Orion Weiss. "As we envisage our ascent, music from times of joyful creation can create a road map leading us out and up. The final album in the trilogy, Arc III, is filled with young composers, post-war music, and music of celebration. It is my message of faith in humans - our resilience, our rebound, our irrepressibility."

The first work on Arc II is Maurice Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin (1914-1917). Le Tombeau de Couperin is built out of loops and is unlike anything else in Ravel's piano oeuvre. Weiss writes in the liner notes, "The momentum of these pieces isn't that of machines or modernity. Rather, these are the dances and spinning-wheels of the lost past. They grasp at the bygone refinement and grace longed for in the new century. In addition to all that Ravel experienced during the first World War - the terror of the battles of Verdun, the death of so many friends, his own debilitating illness - he lost his beloved mother, 'his only reason for living'. The music he synthesized out of all that grief is music of resonant contradiction: new and ancient, exotic and formal, joyful and haunting, meticulous yet filled with life. When asked why these musical tombs (for Couperin and for the friends he lost in the war) weren't explicitly elegiac, Ravel responded: 'The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence.' This cathartic music would be the last that he wrote for solo piano."

Brahms's Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 9 (1854) presents a radiant portrait of Brahms' inner life. Weiss explains, "Just 20 years old, he was introduced to (and all but adopted by) the Schumann family four short months before Robert's attempted suicide and institutionalization... Turning the theme and turning it again, each of the 16 variations refracts a single facet of his world through the prism of sudden loss. The variations move one to the other with the tumbling logic of emotion: shocked stillness follows tumultuous anger, consolation follows mourning, and the sweetness of happy reminiscence echoes off into searching oblivion... Of the Variations, Clara Schumann said, 'He sought to comfort me, he composed variations on that wonderfully heartfelt theme that means so much to me, just as last year when I composed variations for my beloved Robert.'"

Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B minor, Op. 61 (1943) was dedicated to his piano teacher and friend, Leonid Nikolayev, who perished that year in the mass evacuation from Leningrad. Shostakovich had miraculously survived 'The Great Terror,' Stalin's 1930's attack on the Russian people, though imprisonments and killings in that purge had claimed the lives of many of his friends and family members. Weiss describes, "The music of the Piano Sonata is emotional, romantic, wild, and raw."

The final work of the album is Johannes Brahms's 11 Chorale Preludes, Op. 122 (1896). "More than 40 years after Op. 9, Brahms was at the end of his life. Sick, weak, worried for the future of music, and bereft of his life-long friend Clara, his music took on increasingly religious themes. These organ settings of centuries-old Lutheran hymns (transcribed for piano by his longtime admirer Ferrucio Busoni) tighten the thread between himself and Bach, between himself and his faith. Brahms' compositional epilogue dates from immediately after Clara's funeral; the Chorale Preludes, grieving yet heartbreakingly accepting and courageous, were the last notes he ever wrote. 'Now I have nobody left to lose.' (Johannes Brahms, after the death of Clara Schumann)," shares Weiss.

Of his Arc album series, Weiss explains, "The arc of this recital trilogy is inverted, like a rainbow's reflection in water. Arc I's first steps head downhill, beginning from hope and proceeding to despair. The bottom of the journey, Arc II, is Earth's center, grief, loss, the lowest we can reach. The return trip, Arc III, is one of excitement and renewal, filled with the joy of rebirth and anticipation of a better future."

About Orion Weiss

One of the most sought-after soloists and chamber music collaborators of his generation, Orion Weiss is widely regarded as a "brilliant pianist" (The New York Times) with "powerful technique and exceptional insight" (The Washington Post). With a warmth to his playing that outwardly reflects his engaging personality, Weiss has dazzled audiences with his passionate, lush sound and performed with dozens of orchestras in North America including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and New York Philharmonic.

Recent seasons have seen Weiss in performances for the Lucerne Festival, the Denver Friends of Chamber Music, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center's Fortas Series, and the 92nd Street Y, and at the Aspen, Bard, Ravinia, Seattle, and Grand Teton summer festivals, among others. Highlights also include his third performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a live-stream with the Minnesota Orchestra, a performance of Beethoven's Triple Concerto with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the release of his recording of Christopher Rouse's Seeing, and recordings of Gershwin's complete works for piano and orchestra with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and JoAnn Falletta.

Known for his affinity for chamber music, Weiss performs regularly with violinists Augustin Hadelich, William Hagen, Benjamin Beilman, and James Ehnes; pianists Michael Stephen Brown and Shai Wosner; cellist Julie Albers; and the Ariel, Parker, and Pacifica Quartets. As a recitalist and chamber musician, Weiss has appeared across the United States at venues and festivals including Sheldon Concert Hall, the Broad Stage, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, the Schubert Club, Chamber Music Northwest, Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Spivey Hall, and many more.

In the summer of 2011, Weiss made his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood as a last-minute replacement for Leon Fleisher. In recent seasons, he has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and in duo summer concerts with the New York Philharmonic at both Lincoln Center and the Bravo! Vail Valley Festival. In 2005, he toured Israel with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Itzhak Perlman.

Weiss can be heard on the Naxos, Telos, Bridge, First Hand, Yarlung, and Artek labels in recordings such as The Piano Protagonists with The Orchestra Now led by Leon Botstein; Scarlatti's Complete Keyboard Sonatas; a disc of Bartók, Dvorák, and Prokofiev; Brahms Sonatas with violinist Arnaud Sussmann; a solo album of J.S. Bach, Scriabin, Mozart, and Carter; and a recital disc of Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Schumann, Massenet, and Piatigorsky with cellist Julie Albers. In March 2022, First Hand Records released the first album of Weiss's Arc Trilogy - Arc I: Granados, Janáček, Scriabin - a recording that explores the omens and anxiety of the tense world leading up to the first World War. Gramophone Magazine praised the album as "expansive, colourful, and texturally varied." Arc II, featuring the music of Ravel, Brahms, and Shostakovich, will be released in late 2022.

Weiss's impressive list of awards includes the Classical Recording Foundation's Young Artist of the Year, Gilmore Young Artist Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Gina Bachauer Scholarship at The Juilliard School, and the Mieczyslaw Munz Scholarship. He won the 2005 William Petschek Recital Award at Juilliard and made his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall that April. Also in 2005, he made his European debut in a recital at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. He was a member of Lincoln Center's The Bowers Program (formerly CMS Two) from 2002-2004, which included his appearance in the opening concert of the Society's 2002-2003 season at Alice Tully Hall performing Ravel's La Valse with Shai Wosner.

A native of Lyndhurst, Ohio, Weiss attended the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied with Paul Schenly, Daniel Shapiro, Sergei Babayan, Kathryn Brown, and Edith Reed. In February of 1999, Weiss made his Cleveland Orchestra debut performing Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1. The next month, with less than 24 hours' notice, Weiss stepped in to replace André Watts for a performance of Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and was immediately invited to return for a performance of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in that October. In 2004, he graduated from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Emanuel Ax. Learn more www.orionweiss.com.

Arc II: Ravel, Brahms, Shostakovich Track List

1-6. Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937) - Le Tombeau de Couperin (1914-1917) [26:08]
I. Prelude [3:08]
II. Fugue [3:07]
III. Forlane [7:03]
IV. Rigaudon [3:17]
V. Menuet [5:34]
VI. Toccata [3:59]

7. Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897) - Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 9 (1854) [17:56]

8-10. Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975) - Piano Sonata No. 2 in B minor, Op. 61 (1943) [26:12]
I. Allegro [7:03]
II. Largo [6:06]
III. Moderato (con moto) - Allegretto con moto - Adagio - Moderato [13:03]

11-12. Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897) - 11 Chorale Preludes, Op. 122 (1896) (arr. F. Busoni)
No. 10 in A minor [3:07]
No. 11 in F major [3:11]

Total Time: [76:56]

Producing and Editing: David Frost
Assistant Producer: Nathan Brandwein
Engineering: Tim Martyn
Mastering: Silas Brown
Piano Technician: Joel Bernache
Steinway Model D, CD 491
Photos: Lisa Marie Mazzucco
Album artwork: David Murphy
Recorded June 1, 2, and 4, 2018 at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York