youtube - preliminary round
1 John Harbison On an Unwritten Letter This is one of Harbison's three sketches based on the surrealist poems of Eugenio Montale. It fully captures, in my estimation, the sense of anguish and guilt resulting from unrealized communication.
2 Milton Babbitt The Old Order Changeth I believe that Babbitt was trying to evoke a jazz-like sense in this composition. An amusing aside: before Babbitt entitled it "The Old Order Changeth", he was going use either "Across the Board", or "Dizzy Fingers" -- for obvious reasons.
The Harbison and Babbitt pieces were their respective contributions for a project that composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich oversaw, published as the Carnegie Hall Millennium, in (of course) 2000.
3 Stephen Paulus Rollicking Paulus is more well-known for his choral music, but he did pen five Preludes for Piano in 1993 for the pianist Ransom Wilson, in 1993, and they are all very effective -- the last, brilliantly so! youtube-semifinal round
1 Katherine Hoover Toccata Although better known for chamber compositions, with a particular emphasis on flute, she has more recently composed several works for solo piano. This Toccata was published in 2011.
2 Richard Danielpour Elegy This poignant piece was written for the pianist Philippe Drevet, who lost his partner in the late '90s. It is from the 2nd book of the "Enchanted Garden" set of solo piano pieces that Danielpour published in 2009 His 1st set was published in 1992).
3 Michael Torke Blue Pacific This sparkling piece was written for the Stecher Horowitz competition in NYC, in 2006. It's a fun showcase for talented teenage pianists! youtube-final round
John Harbison Sonata No 2. This four-movement work was written for pianist Robert Levin in 2001. The movements are:
i. Intrada -- very epic and Coplandesque
ii. Aria -- operatic in gesture
iii. Ricercare -- a fierce "pre-fugal" statement, culminating in a wild finish.
iv. Variations -- increasingly introspective to the finish; Harbison said that felt he needed to take this Sonata inward, towards the "heart".
Judith Lang Zaimont Wizards -- Three Magic Masters Zaimont wrote this for a Competition in San Antonio, in 2004. The three types of magic the wizards conjure are Rhetorical, Lyrical, and Energetic.