REVIEWS Robert Schulslaper, Fanfare, 8/2008 Evan Hirsch and Sally Pinkas had a close personal and professional relationship with Daniel Pinkham, and the warmth of their feelings surely plays a part in their sincere and always musical homage to their late friend... This is beautiful music, carefully crafted and played here with a loving appreciation of Pinkham's talent... Sally Pinkas brings a lovely tone, exceptional attention to phrases and structure, and a perfectly timed rhetorical sense to all she plays. Her husband Evan Hirsch is also a fine pianist, but his tone sometimes struck me as having a little more bite to it, a slightly harder edge I could hear in 'Blue Blazes', of which Pinkham writes 'I have never written a work which requires such virtuosity'... Besides 'Blue Blazes', Hirsch also plays 'Snowflakes', which Pinkham wrote for him and describes as 'cold and static'... Hirsch plays it with great delicacy, showing as much respect for the spaces between sections as for the notes themselves. The Hirsch/Pinkas piano duo plays Pinkham's [duets]... with the same sense of involvement and thorough musicality that distinguishes their solo performances. As the old cliché has it, they 'play as one'. The CD is well recorded and conveys a satisfyingly warm and natural piano tone... Pianists on the lookout for new and interesting repertoire and anyone else with a love of contemporary music will surely enjoy this fine production. Dave Lewis, Rovi, ANSWERS.com Daniel Pinkham was a remarkable composer, performer, and individual... In his last years, Pinkham worked very closely with the young piano duo of Sally Pinkas and Evan Hirsch, who have recorded two discs of Pinkham's piano music, both together and separately, for Arsis; this is the second volume. All of the music recorded here was composed in Pinkham's last years; the duet October Music was premiered just four months before he died, his liner notes for this album written one month before, and his death occurred literally the day before the first recording session that produced it. That Pinkas and Hirsch were able, under such circumstances, to pull off such fine performances in the face of what surely must have been genuine grief after such a long period of close collaboration with, and worry about, Pinkham, is impressive.... Although this collection is made up of often very short pieces, it seems all of a piece. Musings (2006) is in a way an apt title for the whole, as they are the final musings of a masterful and very experienced composer working out concepts while aware he will not be revisiting them. These pieces have a sense of finality, but he still appears to be moving forward in his thinking; the language here is a bit tougher than what we usually associate with Pinkham. His idiom owes much to other music long known to him -- French literature, Ives' Concord Sonata, neo-classic gestures, tango rhythms -- but all of this is transformed through Pinkham's unique prism. He has a tendency not to weigh ideas in favor of one direction or another and enjoys the friction that results from this equanimity of disparate elements. Although two of the duet sets here are intended for young pianists, they sound no less technically complex than the other music heard, though they are doubtless easier to play as that is their purpose. Pinkas and Hirsch play these works, and all the others, with a sense of gravity and dignity, and Arsis' Daniel Pinkham: Piano Music, Vol. 2, is a very moving experience. Concerning American modernism, experiencing these last entries in Pinkham's worklist are almost like having a conversation with an Old Testament prophet. Peter Burwasser, Fanfare, 10/2008 The late Daniel Pinkham was an intellectually nimble and engaging composer, as is well reflected in this collection of music for two pianos and solo music, performed by a duo he was closely associated with (and the dedicatees of much of his piano output). In previous reviews of his piano music, including Volume 1 of this series with the same musicians, I found him to be elegant and self-effacing, yet still involving, drawing a number of influences together into a discernable voice. We get more of the trenchant Preludes that I admired in my review of Volume 1. Forest Music and October Music are four-hand suites for young pianists, although when they are played with the panache and precision of the Hirsch/Pinkas piano duo, there is nothing juvenile about the music. Pros often have a way of making music for children sound more challenging than it really is, as is often the case for similar material from Schumann, Bartók and Shostakovich. In this instance, the music fits comfortably with the rest of the program. Pinkham was never going to set the world on fire with his music. His combination of erudition, polished technique, and indifference to the style de jour marks him as a classic conservative New England composer. In a white-bread world, this is tasty multi-grain fare. Dig in. NOTES Homage to Daniel Pinkham (1923 - 2006) A collaboration with Daniel Pinkham often meant an unexpected call or e-mail, to the effect that he was 'putting in the mail' a piece for one of us, or both, to look over and comment upon. Inevitably there ensued the process of sight-reading, learning, revising and correcting together, culminating in a first performance: yet another convival occasion to celebrate (accompanied by feasting somewhere, naturally). The professional association became a friendship of the best sort; one which combined our passion for music with our personal admiration and love. Daniel Pinkham's works are presented here as premiere recordings. Dan knew we were about to record, and even saw a copy of the cover, before his death. We were told of his passing when we were already in New Hampshire, preparing for the session. The profound sadness we felt was tempered by the knowledge that we had indeed been blessed by his music and his presence in our lives. His honesty, humor and generosity of spirit live on in his compositions. --Sally Pinkas and Evan Hirsch Program Notes by Dan Pinkham The music on this disc is the result of a close collaboration between the two performing artists and the composer. With the exception of two titles (Forest Music and Blue Blazes), all the other works were composed for and premiered by them. PRELUDES FOR PIANO, BOOK II (2003) In 1995 I received a substantial commission from the Board of Trustees of the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to honor Victor Rosenbaum on his tenth year as Director of the school. For this I produced Six Preludes for Piano, which Sally Pinkas premiered on September 8 of that year. I subsequently composed six additional preludes and dedicated them to Sally, who performed the world premiere of the now dozen pieces on January 30, 1997 at the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College. She later recorded them for the Arsis label (CD125). The present set, Book II, is similar to Book I in that the pieces range from extremely simple to virtuoistic. Sally Pinkas premiered this set on May 25, 2004 at the Hopkins Center. ROMANCES (2004) The Harvard Dictionary of Music informs us that in the 18th and 19th centuries the Romance (German Romanze) was an instrumental work, often of lyrical character and often ABA in form. In the 18th century the term was often interchangeable with Ballade. Robert Schumann and others used this title for piano pieces in a variety of forms. Later composers would propose that the Romance was a sort of program music which contained a hidden narrative. I. The opening Andantino con dolcezza is a hesitant yet expressive song. The central section grows in intensity. The concluding measures end tranquilly. II. The Allegretto e delicato is a plaintive melody played in the extreme high register of the piano. The left-hand accompaniment is spare but supportive. III. Ballando translates 'dancing.' Do we not hear a distant tango? IV. This Allegro is essentially a cheerful Bach-like invention for two voices. V. This movement, Presto, alternates between fast and sinister material and a confident yet serene chorale. VI. The finale, Vivace con brio, is turbulent and virtuoistic. Early on it builds to triple-forte chords. A fleeting waltz enters and then disappears. The opening material returns and the work ends brillinatly. FOREST MUSIC, Second Duet Book for Young Pianists (2002) We enter the deep and silent forest. We stop abruptly at each unfamiliar sound. We cross a gently flowing brook. As we walk along, birds, ignoring our presence, chirp in the treetops. We come upon a cold and dank cave. On the way home, dancing light plays on our path. The work is inscribed to A. Ramón Rivera, who has done such marvelous work with the students in the Preparatory Department of the New England Conservatory. The premiere was presented at the Conservatory on January 25, 2003 by pianists Ko Eun Lee and Lisa Rah. SNOWFLAKES (2005) I composed this brief work for Evan Hirsch. Although the work is cold and static, it reminds us that all flawless hexagons may melt. BARCAROLE (2005) The New Harvard Dictionary of Music has this to say: 'A song of the Venetian gondoliers, or a vocal or instrumental composition modeled on such a song. In the latter, a rhythmically repetitive accompaniment, usually in moderate 6/8 or 12/8 meter, evokes the motion of a boat in waves.' Early composers for the piano such as Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Fauré have written barcaroles. The work is inscribed to Evan Hirsch. BLUE BLAZES (2004) This work was commissioned by Bank of America Celebrity Series for Sergey Schepkin, who premiered it in Jordan Hall (Boston) on April 16, 2005. Writing about it, Richard Dyer commented, 'Pinkham's Blue Blazes is a light passing through a cobalt bottle that contains a message.' I have never before written a work which requires such virtuosity. MUSINGS (2006) I. Allegretto. The work begins in imitation of the chain of sequences such as an extrovert Corelli might have written in a cheerful Trio Sonata. II. Adagietto. Highly chromatic, it's shifting harmonic centers produce an unsettling atmosphere. III. Poco allegro. This gentle movement is a lively and genial pastorale. IV. Ballando. Ballando means dancing. Do you not hear the haughtiness of the proud tango dancer? V. Dolce e delicato. A solitary shepherd pipes his exotic melody from a high mountain pasture. From the deep valley below comes a lyrical response. VI. Vivace e sciolto. A rhythmic and nimble three-note motive opens this finale over a 'walking bass.' A slower contrasting material enters. The opening motive is rejoined and the movement ends in a fiery display. OCTOBER MUSIC, Third Duet Book for Young Pianists (2006) The maple tree shimmers in scarlet and gold. The birds contemplate their long flight south. The field promises a bountiful harvest. A gust chases a dry leaf on the porch. The work is inscribed to the Hirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo, and was premiered by them on August 4, 2006 at the Abbazia di Santa Lucia, Abruzzo, Italy. --November 2006.