Steinway & Sons Spirio celebrates American Independence Day with music from the American songwriters who brought the European tradition to the piano salons of 19th- and early 20th-century America.
Before recorded music was broadcast on the radio or available on gramophone recordings, the piano was the central source of musical entertainment in the home. Volumes of music were written for the instrument by many American composers. This month we highlight two of these composers, Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Charles Tomlinson Griffes. The Gottschalk works, Bamboula and Le Banjo, are classic virtuosic works of the era — difficult to play and fun to listen to, inspired by melodies and folktunes from the composer’s native Louisiana. The pieces by Griffes are excellent examples of music composed to set a mood. These American “Impressionist” works, with names like “Clouds,” “The Lake at Evening” and “The White Peacock,” are performed by the excellent American pianist Thomas Hecht for his Spirio debut.
We also offer a Spirio Sync video of the great George Gershwin playing “Strike Up the Band.” In this rare footage of the composer at the piano, Gershwin tosses off a short version of the tune just before the show — for which it served as the title song — opened on Broadway.
Gershwin’s music is featured in new playlists this month, along with famous melodies from the other founders of the American Songbook including Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and Jerome Kern.
As we prepare for the centenary of the celebrated American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, we introduce a group of tracks that showcase his original works for solo piano. Most of the works featured this month are miniatures: gifts, tributes or memorials to friends and family of the composer. All of Bernstein’s published and unpublished piano works will be released on Spirio later this year.
An American gumbo of march music from John Philip Sousa and polyrhythms from Africa, ragtime music is known for its syncopated or “ragged” rhythm and soared to popularity in early 20th-century America. The Spirio ragtime playlist contains classic rags by Scott Joplin and James P. Johnson as well as contemporary ragtime interpretations by William Bolcom.
Important artists debuting on Spirio this month include the fine German pianist Matthias Kirschnereit performing Mendelssohn, young Chinese virtuoso Qin Chuan playing Chinese music and Chopin, and the excellent Taiwanese pianist Gwhyneth Chen, playing selections from Liszt’s formidable Transcendental Etudes. Finally, a nod of sorts to Bastille Day, as Hélène Tysman plays two "Menuets" from Maurice Ravel.