VOYAGE À PARISSolo Piano Music
Claude Debussy, César Franck, Olivier Messiaen, Francis Poulenc, Maurice Ravel
GREG MCCALLUM, piano
"Greg McCallum’s first disc for MSR received a positive notice in these pages, as much for the outside-the-box programming as for his fine playing. But it is one matter to make an impression on the inquisitive listener with rarely heard works by the likes of Gottschalk, Mills, Still, and Rzewski (as well as one of McCallum’s own works), and quite another to jump into a crowded field of brilliant interpreters of Debussy, Ravel, and Messiaen. It may take a leap of faith for fans of French piano music to invite a relative unknown to share shelf space with the likes of Thibaudet, Pollini, and Moravec, but devotees aren’t likely to regret the purchase... In general I would describe his readings as clear-eyed and unfussy (no gauzy washes of impressionist haze here), sensibly paced with rubato applied with a subtle touch, and a dynamic profile that seems more geared to framing the architecture than micro-managing phrases... McCallum’s program includes a generously wide spectrum of styles, and the listener will be reminded how far-reaching French music traveled in a mere half century. Much of this program is well represented on disc, but there are a few wild cards thrown into the mix, including a pair of Francis Poulenc’s 15 Improvisations. The pianist has a persuasive way with these salon pieces, imbuing them with charm and lyrical grace. The three Debussy preludes show a mastery of color and keen control of dynamic shadings... I can’t say that I concur with McCallum’s assertion in the notes that Franck’s Prélude, Choral and Fugue is a masterpiece (the long, arpeggiated procession of chords in the second movement is a deal breaker for me), but the pianist makes a strong case... Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit is undoubtedly one of the sternest tests for a pianist. McCallum’s first movement is a bit careful with regard to tempo, but not so deliberate as to hamper melodic progression. He tends not to separate the myriad voices with exaggerated dynamic layering, an approach that took a bit of adjustment for me, but came to pay handsome dividends. Indeed, there are details of the score that I heard for the first time, no easy feat considering the number of interpretations I’ve heard. There are more impetuous readings of this masterpiece, but few that give the listener a clearer insight into the composer’s exacting craftsmanship... As in the Ravel, Messiaen’s “Regard de L’Espirit de joie” is imbued with x-ray clarity and technicolor harmonies that shimmer with polished brilliance. While the percussive elements are tamer than in some recorded versions, dynamic contrasts are vividly etched, and the mammoth chords are deftly vanquished. If, like me, you have grown weary of the completeness fetish that has gripped the music world for decades and long for the taste required to fashion a satisfying recital disc, this is for you... Recording quality is first-rate. Highly recommended."
Michael Cameron, Fanfare - September/October 2010
"McCallum gives a good recital: it’s a pleasant sampler that pairs good music and playing like a fine cheese platter with a robust vintage. Our appetite is whetted by the two Poulenc improvisations, which exhibit terrific color and volume shifts. The following three preludes from Debussy are fantastic as well, with ‘Minstrels’ in particular coming off with great wit and humor as McCallum maintains dexterous control over the rubato and all the attack types... The piece by Franck [is] played well... He [gives] a rousing and brilliant romp through Messiaen, where he handles the rapid angular melodies and the cascades of chordal fireworks with equal aplomb.."
Auerbach, American Record Guide - September/October 2010
"Greg McCallum's propensity for imaginative programming extends to his latest MSR release. It's refreshing to hear Poulenc's Improvisations as McCallum plays them... The pianist cannily gauges the slow-motion build of "La cathedrale engloutie" and brings plenty of characterful sparkle to "Feux d'Artifice"... "Scarbo" is similarly meticulous and focused... rock-solid projection of Messiaen's rapid passagework... McCallum's excellent and extensive booklet-notes add value to this fine, superbly engineered release."
Jed Distler, Gramophone - July 2010
"A very nice idea for turning a recital of 19th and 20th century piano music into a concept album... McCallum deftly brings out the Gothically dark and threatening musical depiction of the diabolical dwarf [in Ravel's Scarbo]... McCallum plays a German Steinway and the sonics are exceptionally realistic and wide range. There is a reference to a special technology used in the recording... the final result is a cut above many other piano CDs."
John Sunier, Audiophile Audition - March 2010
PROGRAM NOTESVoyage à Paris explores the evolution of French piano music from the late nineteenth to the mid twentieth centuries, and includes works by Franck, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc and Messiaen. This era was one of the richest in the history of both French music and art. Paris was the Mecca for this proliferation of musical and artistic creativity, and all of the composers featured in this recording made the “City of Light“ their home and place of work. Chronologically, Voyage à Paris encompasses a musical journey from the Romantic writing of César Franck in the late 1800s to the Impressionistic works of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. The musical voyage concludes in the mid 1900s with the influence of French cabaret and popular music in the compositions of Francis Poulenc, and the explosive joy expressed by Olivier Messiaen in his mystical contemporary writing.
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Pianist Greg McCallum has performed across North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia in some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., Preston Bradley Hall in Chicago, New York‘s Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, St. Martin-in-the- Fields in London, and at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. A versatile musician, McCallum plays a wide range of repertoire from Bach to Brubeck, and has been praised by critics for his “deeply felt, sensitive playing” (Die Main Post, Germany) and “consummate technical and artistic skill” (The Spectator, Raleigh, NC). For his Carnegie Hall debut in March 2005, the New York Concert Review wrote “McCallum is a solid musician eager to make a connection with his audience...in the Scarlatti, he drew the line with deep and pure intention allied with the most expressive of rubati.”
In September 2003,McCallum participated in the world premiere of Italian composer Daniele Lombardi’s Threnodia per 21 Pianoforti in New York. This composition is dedicated to the memory of the 9/11 World Trade Center victims and was performed next to Ground Zero in the renovated Winter Garden. Although he primarily appears as a soloist, McCallum has worked as a collaborative artist with such distinguished musicians as flutists Wissam Boustany of London and Alexa Still of New Zealand, violinist Eric Pritchard of the Ciompi Quartet, and composer/pianist Frederic Rzewski. He has given premieres of new works by Sidney Boquiren, Julie Harris, Daniele Lombardi, and Gwyneth Walker. McCallum frequently improvises and composes in addition to performing. He also presents programs that combine the classical repertoire with other genres, including collaborations with folk singer Mike Seeger and novelist Lee Smith. North Carolina critics praised the diversity and scope of McCallum’s work, and hailed him as “one of our region’s most innovative performers” (The Spectator, Raleigh, NC).
McCallum received music degrees from the University of Maryland at College Park, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and the Hochschule für Musik in Würzburg, Germany. He has won prizes and honors in piano competitions including the National Symphony Orchestra Young Soloist Competition, the Elizabeth R. Davis Memorial Piano Competition, and the Elizabeth Harper Vaughn Concerto Competition. Upon winning the Hofer Sinfoniker Concerto Competition, McCallum made his orchestral debut in Würzburg, Germany. He has also won awards in competitions for chamber music and accompanying, such as the Jessie Kneisal German Lied Competition at the Eastman School of Music. McCallum’s teachers have included Grace Watson, Michael Zenge, Arne Torger, Nelita True, Maria Curcio Diamand, and Ronald and Carlyle Hodges.
Voyage à Paris marks McCallum’s fourth CD release and the second in his international cultural studies series with MSR Classics, which documents cultural and musical evolution as reflected in the diverse repertoire of the piano. Southern Quilt, McCallum’s previous release with MSR Classics [MS1092], celebrated his own Southern musical heritage and was praised by Fanfare Magazine as “an imaginative recital...McCallum makes strong claims for the music, showing himself to be equally adept in the sweet lushness of the Still and in the mechanistic drive of the Rzewski.” Additionally, McCallum frequently appears on radio and television. Radio performances include “The State of Things” (WUNC Radio, Chapel Hill), “The Main Street Sessions” (WDAV Radio, Davidson, NC), the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series Broadcasts (WFMT Radio, Chicago), “The Art of the States” (WGBH Radio, Boston), and “From the Mountain” (WNYE Radio, New York).
Committed to music education and outreach, McCallum often performs for enthusiastic school children and underserved communities throughout the Southeastern United States. He also uses music to benefit humanitarian causes. McCallum founded three benefit concert series, “Building Houses with Music,” “Beethoven and Friends for the Homeless,” and “Reflections on World Peace,” that have raised more than $200,000 for Habitat for Humanity, the homeless, and world peace causes. His second CD, Reflections, features classical piano music for relaxation, and is currently used in hospitals and healing institutions around the world.
A dedicated teacher, McCallum enjoys teaching a private studio of advanced students who have won honors in national and international piano competitions, and he is frequently in demand as both an adjudicator and clinician. In 2008, McCallum served as an adjudicator for the 60th Hong Kong Schools Music Festival and the Great Melody School of Music Festival in Hong Kong, where he also gave master classes.
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)