Roman Salvatore | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Roman Salvatore 

Ramon Salvatore specializes in American piano literature--which may explain why he's just as underheralded as the mainstay of his repertoire. After all, who's ever heard of Amy Cheney Beach, Elie Siegmeister, or Arthur Foote, let alone their writings for the keyboard? These are some of the composers featured in the final installment of Salvatore's remarkable three-recital survey of American piano music from the early 19th century to the present. The selections are every bit as intriguing as the men and women themselves. Beach (1867-1944), an extraordinarily gifted woman who was deprived of a formal education because of her sex but succeeded nonetheless, is represented by the inventive and moody Five Improvisations, her last major piece for solo piano. From Siegmeister (born in 1909), a precocious Nadia Boulanger pupil who grew equally fond of both serialism and the more popular idioms of folk and jazz, there's Themes and Variations no. 1, an effective (and complex) example of the fusion of these twin influences; and from Foote (1853-1937), the American Faure, who excelled in suave chamber music, there's Five Poems After Omar Khayyam, impressionistic, Arabic-accented movements inspired by images from the Rubaiyat. Rounding out the survey are works by Wallingford Riegger, John Corigliano, David Burge, and Hunter Johnson. Salvatore, who spent five years preparing this series (presented by New Music Chicago), deserves a medal for championing our neglected musical heritage. Saturday, 2 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Public Library Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington;477-1379 or 708-617-3390.

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