Starry Night Released July 31, 2015
Lewin clearly has this music in his blood and brings out the very essence of each work on this generous program.. Lewin provides another terrrific Debussy recital.
Sono Luminus Records
unyielding brilliance of technique and artistic intelligence…an intimate discourse between a great composer and a preeminent interpreter of his music.
– Joseph Newsome, Voix des Arts, Feb. 2014
Sono Luminus Records
Lewin’s eclectic recital is a delight from start to finish…virtuosic panache and real affection. Lewin’s notes are a model of accessibility and erudition- the recording quality is sensationally vivid.
– Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk
If I Were a Bird
Sono Luminus Records
Throughout his career pianist Michael Lewin has been fascinated by music inspired by birds and has often included these pieces on his recitals. If I were a bird is a diverse, charming selection that brings together 20 avian pieces from the Baroque to the 20th century. The most impressive and substantial work is a highly effective transcription of three movements from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite made by Guido Agosti, and Lewin plays it with ferocious intensity and it’s a real show-stopper. Lewin is especially compelling in the dazzling virtuoso repertoire — the late Romantic showcases like the character pieces by Josef Hoffmann, Theodor Leschetizky, and Edward MacDowell — and in the really substantive works like the movements from Schumann’s Waldszenen, Granados’ Goyescas, Ravel’s Miroirs, and Messiaen’s early Preludes. The extravagantly ornamented Baroque pieces by Rameau and Daquin, originally for harpsichord, are delightfully quirky.
– Stephen Eddins, Allmusic.com
William Bolcom: The Four Sonatas for Violin and Piano / The Graceful Ghost Rag
Michael Lewin, piano, and Irina Muresanu, violin
Centaur Records CR2910
Bringing fervor and range to Bolcom: The Bolcom Sonatas are also phenomenally difficult, something that seemed of no consequence to Muresanu and Lewin….almost telepathic rapport…Their playing was marked by passion and tremendous rhythmic vitality.
– The Boston Globe
The Piano Music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Centaur Records CRC2549
Program: The Banjo, Ricordati, Bamboula, Berceuse, Pasquinade, Souvenir de Porto Rico, Ojos Criollos, Ynes, O MaCharmante, EpargnezMoi!, Ballade, Polka in B-flat, Manchega, Le Bannanier, Souvenir de Lima, La Savane
Michael Lewin’s ‘Bamboula!’ (Centaur) is a selection of the delightful piano music by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, America’s first international virtuoso/composer; Lewin has the chops and the charm for these pieces.
– Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe
Domenico Scarlatti: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2
Program: 19 Sonatas- D Major K.492, A minor, K.3, D minor K.32 (Aria),D Major, K.33, A Major K.208, A Major K.209, E Major K.20, E minor K.398, B minor K.27,D Major K.436, D minor K.141, D minor K.213, G Major K.14, A Major K.322, A minor K.109, ,G Major K.146, A Major K.39.. , F minor K.481, D minor K.517
No sooner does Naxos commence one immense project (the complete piano music of Liszt, for example) than it starts another. Volume 2 in its complete Scarlatti sonata cycle is played by Michael Lewin, an American pianist as dexterous and assured as he is audacious. Here there is no sense of ‘studio’ caution but only of liberating and dazzling music-making, live and on the wing. K.492 in D could hardly provide a more brilliant curtain-raiser, and in K.3 in A minor (the one where Scarlatti’s impish humour offers the musical equivalent of someone slipping on a banana skin) Lewin’s playing positively brims over with high spirits.
The D major Sonata, K.33, is all thrumbing guitars and bursts of sunlight and in K.141, with its cascades of repeated notes, Lewin even gives Martha Argerich (whose performance – never officially released – is of legendary status) a run for her money. There is a no less appealing balm and musical quality in the more restrained numbers such as K.32 in D minor and K.208 in A, though the recital comes to a suitably ebullient conclusion with K.517 in D minor which, from Lewin, is like a river in full spate.
The New York-based recordings are suitably lively (by all accounts more successful than in Vol 1) and not even the most persistent lover of Scarlatti on the harpsichord could accuse Michael Lewin of heaviness, of an absence of the necessary glitter, panache and stylistic awareness.
– Bryce Morrison, Gramophone Magazine
Piano Music of Charles Tomlinson Griffes Vol. 1
Naxos American Classics (8.559023)
Marco Polo 8.223850 (all countries other than Canada and the U.S.)
Program: Piano Sonata, Three Tone Pictures, De Profundis, Roman Sketches, A Winter Landscape,Rhapsody in B Minor, Barcarolle (Offenbach), Legend, Prelude
This splendid recording is a welcome addition to an all-too-small Griffes discography. Michael Lewin, a crackerjack pianist with a larger-than-life command of these ferociously complex works, turns in pristinely detailed, passionate, big-boned readings of affective and intonational precision. Lewin belongs to a new pianistic elite that includes Marc Andre Hamelin, Roberto Capello, and Sergei Babayan. This is the first installment of two of Griffes’s complete piano works in Naxos’s new American Classics Series.
Mr. Lewin’s intensity never lets so much as a contrapuntal hair drag or falter. His chilling account of the Night Winds is riveting for its canny textural transparency, but also for its singularity of purpose. In his hands, its restless wash of arpeggios discloses the unsettling, atmospheric registration with compelling logic and gusto… As Mr. Lewin plays it, the lush, Liszt-like Rhapsody in B minor wraps its massive but fluttering sonorities around the listener like giant wings….. Rhetorical declamation is second nature to him; there’s an attractive, stentorian quality about his playing that refuses to get bogged down by the exotic colors as it burns off the fog that usually burdens unimaginative readings. Mr. Lewin thoughtfully embraces the structural dimensions of these works, sculpting them with a kind of visceral intensity and unimpeachable authority.
The sound is clear, bold, and exceptionally clean. I look forward to Volume 2...
– John Bell Young, American Record Guide
Piano Music of Charles Tomlinson Griffes Vol. 2
Naxos American Classics 8.559046
Program: Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan, Three Preludes, Dance in A Minor, Three Piano Pieces (E Major, B-flat Major and D minor), Three Fantasy Pieces (Barcarolle, Notturno, Scherzo), Overture to Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel (arr. Two Pianos), Symphonische Phantasie (for Two Pianos)
Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920) was one of our most original native-born talents. The New York-based Griffes knew his calling early in life and went to Germany at age 19 to further his musical education. Among his composition teachers was Engelbert Humperdinck. His music was of such quality that he won premieres from the likes of Walter Damrosch in New York, Pierre Monteux in Boston , and Leopold Stowkowski in Philadelphia. He had the rare gift of absorbing the musical idioms of his time and incorporating into his compositions a magical amalgam of styles and colors. But genius that he was, nothing appeared derivative.
That Griffes was an accomplished pianist shows in his magnificent and imaginative writing for the instrument. The most familiar original work here is The Pleasure Dome of Kuble-Khan in its original piano version (unpublished until 1993!) It sounds vivid and colorful even without its brilliant orchestral dress. The Three Fantasy Pieces offer a stylistic kaleidoscope, the Nocturne evoking the impressionism that often caused the composer to be falsely linked to that French school. Yet listen to the jazz elements so clearly evident in the Dance in A minor or the Gershwinesque qualities in the Piece in D minor and you will see how foolish it is to tack labels onto artistic genuis.
The two-piano version of the Hansel and Gretel overture is said to have pleased Humperdinck- not surprising, given the idiomatic sound of the transcription. A further exercise in Wagnerian romanticism can be found in the rich-textured Symphonic Fantasy for two pianos- a work truly grand in scope. Both are first recordings.
Michael Lewin offers superb readings and has a marvelous partner in Janice Weber fot the two-piano works. The engineering is first rate, as is the pianist’s annotation. Another valuable addition to the label’s American Music Series.
– Allen Linkowki, American Record Guide
A Russian Piano Recital
Centaur Records CRC 2134
Program: Balakirev- Islamey, Toccata, The Lark (Glinka) ; Glazunov- Theme and Variations in f# minor; Scriabin- Sonata No. 2, Four Etudes, Prelude & Nocturne for the Left Hand
Lewin is a different kind of pianist than Paik, and his Scriabin has a different spin – more forthright and less improvisatory, with sharper differentiation in its timbres, sharper contours in its phrasing, more affirmation in its rhythms. There’s plenty of intimacy, notable in particular for its control of chordal balances and of inner lines… Lewin’s Balakirev and Glazunov are similarly firm. His Islamey, for instance, is refreshingly modernist, discarding the corny lushness of the “orientalisms” in favor of the tight spring of the rhythms; The Lark more sharply angled than curved, strives less for legato lines than for clarity of textures and sparkling filigree; the rarely-heard turn-of-the-century Toccata dances on with a heady sense of rhythm; and the tough traversal of Glazunov’s potentially gummy variations resists the music’s underlying sentimentality. Centaur’s sound, too, is impressively solid and immediate. Warmly recommended.
– Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare Magazine
Michael Lewin Plays Liszt (Debut Recording)
Centaur Records (CRC 2066)
Program: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 8, Transcendental Etude No.10, Concert Fantasty on Bellini’s “La Sonnambula”, Four Song Transcriptions: Ave Maria, On Wings of Song, Spring, Widmung, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen Variations
Lewin reveals slowly – almost slyly – that he has all the technical resources he needs, graced with gratifying tonal finesse. One finds oneself suddenly overtaken and suavely moved by an ineffable alchemy of sheer expressive power. The “Sonnambula” Fantasy is a melodic sunburst, while the song transcriptions are possessed by an almost speaking, certainly confiding and ultimately telling lyricism. In this art concealing art there is an astonishing maturity suffused with youthful ardor – a winning combination. Indeed, this is an important debut marking Lewin as an artist to be attended closely. Enthusiastically recommended.
– Adrian Corleonis, Fanfare Magazine