Bach, Goldberg Variations Live Recording Now Available

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Recorded on the TwoPianists label and released November 6, 2015, this CD is a live recording that took place on January 4, 2015. Why a live recording? Sims says, “I’m an advocate of live performances. In front of an audience, it’s a high wire act without a net. So when I successfully make it across, there is a euphoria that just can’t be captured in a recording studio.”

“Even though Bach’s Goldberg Variations does not need to be recorded again by anyone, ever, it’s hard to resist Lori Sims’ vibrant and communicative live recording… In all, a masterful, heartfelt, and simply beautiful performance.” Jed Distler – Classics Today

“Lori Sims’s Goldberg Variations turned out to be the most spellbinding piano version of Bach’s keyboard masterpiece to come my way in quite some time. [It] is a must-hear for anyone who is passionate about this music.” Jerry Dubins – Fanfare Magazine

New York Concert Review

Pianist William Masselos (1920-1992) was honored in a most special way this past weekend, in a tribute piano recital by Lori Sims, presented by the organization Hausmusik. Widely recognized not only as a great pianist in diverse repertoire but as a particularly important champion of twentieth-century American piano music, Mr. Masselos is also fondly remembered by those of us who were at Juilliard during his tenure there as something of an unsung hero — despite his countless enviable achievements. One applauds Hausmusik for paying tribute and also for choosing Lori Sims, a pianist of prodigious abilities, to do so.

Each work on the program related in some way to William Masselos, at times in exact repertoire matches, notably Ben Weber’s Fantasia (Variations), and at other times through subtler connections, well-explained in the pianist’s thoughtful program notes. Rather than playing the “six degrees of separation” game, I prefer to focus on Ms. Sims, whose own personal connections to each work were evident from the first notes onward, and whose masterful readings obviated the need for any extraneous “raison d’etre.”

First off, Ms. Sims gave an extremely taut, precise, and intelligent performance of Copland’s Piano Variations. With an energy that suggested she was spring-loaded, she brought the work electricity and clarity. Nerves of steel are to be expected from a pianist who has won major competitions, including the Gina Bachauer 1998 Gold Medal, but hers are exceptional, unruffled even by the blaring of loud vocal music from some unknown source during her first entrance onstage. The intensity never let up, and Ben Weber’s Fantasia was another tour de force, this time exploiting the pianist’s gift for more romantic, lush sonorities.  What Ms. Sims likened to “Scriabin’s neurotic energy” seemed to abound, and one could only be astounded that after this Weber and the Copland, there were still three Griffes “Roman Sketches” and Barber’s monumental Piano Sonata yet to come (to complete an hour-long “first half”).

The Griffes pieces did provide some impressionistic relief from the musical tension, but only for the audience, as the pianistic demands simply shifted to a different kind of artistry. “The White Peacock” requires a special languid sensuality, and Ms. Sims brought it out to a tee. “The Fountain of Acqua Paola” needs streaming showers of delicacy, expertly colored, and it had just that. “Clouds” had no less mesmerizing an effect.

The Barber Sonata, showing not a trace of fatigue, was sure-fire. While it may not have been this listener’s all-time favorite performance of the work, it was an amazingly polished, assertive close to a first half of mammoth difficulty. Perhaps if one had to pinpoint a reservation about it, it would be that Ms. Sims has such a formidable technique that she made short work of some of its heroic climaxes. In the fourth movement Fugue especially, my favorite performances let loose with an almost ferocious abandon toward the close. Ms. Sims could perhaps be called “unostentatious” (as the honoree, Mr. Masselos, was described by Harold Schonberg), but one wanted to share in the sense of triumph and release that she had so richly earned.

The program’s second part was made up of Clara Schumann’s Romances, Op. 11, Nos. 1 and 3, and Robert Schumann’s Fantasy, Op. 17. These works showed great sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and fervor, and there were many moments of nearly transcendent beauty. Somehow, though, the truly indelible impression was made on this listener by the twentieth-century works. Ms. Sims showed that she has a rare gift for bringing audiences closer to these works, and it is a gift that should continue taking her to new musical heights.

-Rorianne Schrade for New York Concert Review; New York, NY

 

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Lori Sims 2014 Gilmore Performance

For the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival on Monday, Lori Sims presented a program of American classics, written between 1906 and 1945: music she loves, respects, and deeply understands.

Her playing is extraordinary: authoritative, insightful, and endlessly interesting. Her thoughtful phrasing makes complete sense of the music, and her technical command of the instrument gives her artistry full expression. Robust basses, sparkling trebles, velvety legatos, crisp staccatos, and vast array of tonal shadings reveal the artistry she brings to every aspect of her music-making.

Take, for example, the “Three-Page Sonata” of Charles Ives. The work captures a Fourth of July celebration in Ives’ childhood home, Danbury, Conn., in the early years of the last century. In the fast outer sections, ragtime and a circus band peeked through. The middle slow section took us into another world, its serene reverie perfectly captured.

Ives said the sonata was intended to “knock the mollycoddles out of their boxes and kick out the softy ears” and kick and knock them it does.

Sims’ intelligent, passionate playing illuminated the wildly complicated score, which is full of 10-note chords, insistent dissonances, and polyrhythms. Despite the sonata’s complexity, lyricism prevailed.

Ben Weber’s “Fantasia” (Variations), Op. 25, demonstrates that a 12-tone work does not have to be relentlessly atonal, but can rub shoulders with Scriabin and Ravel. Even in the densest passages, Sims let in light and air. Her clear architectural conception illuminated the score.

Barber’s “Excursions,” Op. 20, brought in American folk idioms — the cowboy tune, boogie woogie, the blues– “spectacular nuggets of our history,” Sims observed. Throughout the work she reminded us of what a supreme melodist Barber was.

A stunning performance of Charles Tomlinson Griffes’s rarely heard but brilliant one-movement sonata ended the program.

It’s hard to imagine a more convincing performance of these American classics.

– By Zaide Pixley, Special to the Kalamazoo Gazette

 

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American Classics

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Recorded on the TwoPianists label and released February 26, 2013, this CD features the monumental Samuel Barber Sonata, Charles Griffes Roman Sketches Op.7, Ben Weber Fantasia (Variations) Op.25 apart from the mentioned Copland Variations. Lori Sims is a forceful performer, strong in her ideas, yet immensely elegant in style. Following the success of a recent recording featuring European composers, Lori Sims’ American Classics recording highlights the fact that American art music could not escape the heritage to Europe.

 

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CD release concert

This article appeared on October 10, 2012  in the WMU News

Pianist and School of Music professor presents CD release concert

by Cara Barnes

IMG_9880KALAMAZOO—Pianist and Western Michigan University faculty member Lori Sims will perform a CD release concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

Sims’ performance will be preceded by a 7 p.m. discussion hosted by Dr. Dan Jacobson, WMU professor of music. Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 for seniors and $5 for students, and are available from Miller Auditorium at millerauditorium.com/som or by calling (269) 387-2300 or (800) 228-9858.

Sims, the John T. Bernhard Professor of Music at WMU, teaches piano and keyboard literature. She received the first prize gold medal at the 1998 Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition. She was also a first place co-winner of the 1994 Felix Bartholdy-Mendelssohn Competition in Berlin and took first prize at the 1993 American Pianists’ Association Competition with outstanding distinction from the jury.

Her new CD, to be released on Naxos, includes Romantic favorites and pieces that represent various landmarks in her career. Sims will be selling and signing CDs after the concert in the Dalton Center lobby.

The program will include 15 Variations and Fugue in E-Flat Major, Opus 35 (Eroica Variations), by Ludwig van Beethoven; “The White Peacock” from Roman Sketches, Opus 7, by Charles Tomlinson Griffes; “Romance in E-Flat Major” from Trois romances, Opus 11, by Clara Schumann; Prelude in C Minor, Opus 23, Number 7, by Sergei Rachmaninoff; and several works by Frederic Chopin.

The Dalton Wed@7:30pm: Live and Interactive! concert series is presented by the WMU School of Music under the auspices of the Bullock Music Performance Institute. Established in the fall of 1985 and renamed in 1988 in honor of its founder, the institute has presented events ranging from formal evening concerts to daytime educational outreach events for local audiences and students of all ages.

For more information about the Wednesday evening concert series, call (269) 387-4704 or (269) 387-4678, or visit wmich.edu/music.