Katie talks about the album:
George Gershwin is the quintessential American composer. He gave a unique musical voice to his time and place, and his music immortalizes through art the best that America represents. His song melodies are part of the American consciousness and are beloved throughout the world. Yet, it is as a “serious” classical composer that he most desired to be remembered and respected. This album is therefore dedicated to the memory of the “Classical Gershwin” – the Gershwin whose music brought crowds to the classical concert halls, the Gershwin who successfully incorporated the nuances of jazz and popular music to create a classical music that was uniquely and authentically American. – Katie Mahan
Although Gershwin was a product of the jazz era that he belonged to, he often expressed a desire to quit writing popular music so that he could devote himself to “serious” classical composition. He dreamed of composing symphonies, string quartets, ballets and operas, and his entire short life was a quest for acceptance – musical as well social. He was a musician touched with natural genius who grew up in humble surroundings and was largely self-taught. He merged the American jazz spirit with the European classical music tradition in a manner previously unattempted, and in so doing created his own idiom that is as personal and individual a musical voice as that of Rachmaninov. His success is a reflection of his unending ambition and his innate natural ability to absorb and reflect his surroundings.
The selections on this album are bookmarked by Gershwin’s two rhapsodies – Rhapsody in Blue and the Second Rhapsody. In these works, we hear the evolution of Gershwin’s personality and character, and can trace his personal and compositional development over the eight years that separate them. The remaining works on this album include some of Gershwin’s most beloved song melodies, and show the composer’s lighter side. As with the arrangements of the rhapsodies, the song arrangements presented on this album are carefully conceived in a classical style rather than an improvisatory style, paying tribute to Gershwin’s desire for his music to be part of the classical concert idiom. They seek to capture the spontaneity and innate freedom inherent to Gershwin’s jazz spirit, but are performed not in a jazz manner, but rather as a classical pianist envisions and interprets them.
Many composers have one piece that is so great that it defines him for life, but it is the true genius that uses that piece as a starting point from which he then continues to grow and develop. Gershwin was certainly such an example, and the transition from the composer of popular songs to the composer of respected classical concert works – that he so ardently strived to become – gives a glimpse of his genius. Like all great composers, Gershwin created a sound that was uniquely his own, and whether popular songs or concert works, his compositions are immediately identifiable and could not have been written by anyone else but George Gershwin. His music is authentically American, and his unique musical idiom is responsible for the creation of a truly “American” classical music. In the words of Leonard Bernstein, “Gershwin was, and remains, one of the greatest voices that ever rang out in the history of American urban culture.”
Recorded at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche (Tonmeister: Rainer Maillard: Emil Berliner Studios, Berlin), this recording features 9 tracks and a bonus DVD of Gershwin’s beloved Rhapsody in Blue. The album will be available in multiple formats worldwide on the Steinway & Sons Label. Katie can also be heard performing Rhapsody in Blue and „I got rhythm“ on the Steinway Spirio piano beginning November 1.
1. Rhapsody in Blue (16:09)
2. Embraceable You (3:29)
3. Our Love is Here to Stay (3:51)
4. I Got Rhythm (2:09)
5. They Can’t Take That Away from Me (4:38)
6. Walking the Dog (4:25)
7. Fascinating Rhythm (1:45)
8. ‚Swonderful/Funny Face (3:30)
9. Second Rhapsody (16:14)
BONUS DVD: Rhapsody in Blue
A video conceived and produced by Katie Mahan
“A young pianist with a great talent and a great future who impressed me immensely by her unique musical talent, and also by her very interesting musical personality; her interpretations are always original and personal.” – French pianist Pascal Rogé
Katie talks about the album:
„Debussy’s music has always had a special place in my heart. Even as a child learning my first pieces of music on the piano, I was fascinated by his sound and the way in which his music draws one into a magical world of color and imagery where the imagination is free to soar. Quietly one of the most revolutionary and important influences on 20th century music, Debussy created an entirely new harmonic language, broke the rules of western harmony, assimilated elements from antiquity and presented them in a modern setting, absorbed the music of Asia and Spain, as well as American jazz, and created the epitome of modern French music. As a young aspiring pianist, I dreamed of studying in the world that had inspired Debussy, and my dream came true when I had the opportunity to study with the French pianist Pascal Rogé for three years. My studies with Pascal taught me not only about Debussy’s style, but also about his life and the world and arts that surrounded and influenced him in fin de siècle France. On this album, I want to show the impressions of Debussy’s whole life, as I observed them through his compositions: the change from the naivety of youth to the sophistication of the passing of time, and the transition from the endearing fairytale charm of his early works to the sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humor of his late works.
Clair de lune and Deux Arabesques, both originally dating from around the year 1890, are beautiful examples of his early style. They are full of a certain joie de vivre, lightness, and innocence, while the Préludes Book II, dating from 1911-13, late in the composer’s life, are a particularly poignant representation of Debussy’s mature mind, and exhibit a spirituality and depth of understanding that comes with life and also mirrors the changing world. They are truly impressions of Debussy’s total life experience. They incorporate the whimsy of legend and fairytale, like in “Ondine” and “Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses”, along with the excitement of travel and nature like in “La puerta del vino” and “Bruyères“, to the poking fun of society in “Hommage à S. Pickwick Esq. P.P.M.P.C.”, and finally to his patriotism and love of his homeland in “Feux d’artifice”. In between the early works and the Préludes lies the suite Pour le piano, a transitional work, in which Debussy not only breaks away from the Romantic style of his early works, but also cements his new musical language, characterized principally by the use of the whole-tone and pentatonic scales and chords for their own sake rather than for their harmonic function, and imposes a new level of technical requirements on the pianist.
Central to this album is Debussy’s beloved masterpiece, Clair de lune. Every piece of music that I play inspires its own unique story and images in my mind, and the story behind Clair de lune has fascinated me since my childhood. It is for this reason that I chose to title this album after this magical work, and create an accompanying video which brings to life the images that it evokes in my mind.
Clair de lune is based on an eponymous poem by the French poet, Paul Verlaine, and is part of a collection of poems called Fêtes Galantes which refer to aristocratic outdoor entertainments and explored subjects such as the Italian commedia dell’arte and the Venetian carnival, as well as the eternal themes of love, truth, longing, and the romantic theme of harmony between nature and feelings. Debussy had a lifelong fascination with the imagery of the commedia dell’arte, and the manner in which Verlaine incorporates this subject in his poetry while imparting impressions of entertainment and emotion or seduction had a particular appeal for Debussy. The correspondence between landscape and the soul, as depicted through subtleties and illusion, was at the heart of the symbolist prospective, and is centerfold in both Verlaine and Debussy’s work.
In Clair de lune, one sees masked characters at an enchanting moonlit ball in a magical ancient town surrounded by sparkling water. The moonlight shines its bright reflection on the water, and all the beautiful masks glisten in the moonlight, as the revelers dance and make music. However, their happiness and joy are only a facade as, like actors in a theatre, they hide their sadness, isolation, and tears behind their masks. With this image in mind, one thinks back to the characters of the commedia and imagines the main character of Clair de lune to be like the pantomime clown Pierrot: he puts on a happy face to the world, but inside he is tragic. He longs for his true love, even though he knows he has lost her. His tears are hidden from the world, but as he thinks of his great love and remembers her sweetness like that of a rose, they flow down like tiny jets of water rippling heartbreak into the vast ocean of life. And so he wanders aimlessly in the moonlight – almost as if being led by the ghost of fate – struggling to find himself and discover the deep meaning of life.” – Katie Mahan
Recorded at the Meistersaal/Emil Berliner Studios in Berlin, this recording features 18 tracks and a bonus video of Debussy’s beloved Clair de lune. The album will be available in multiple formats and is her latest release, following her recording of the Complete Solo Piano Works of Leonard Bernstein released by Deutsche Grammophon in 2018.
1. Clair de lune (5:11)
Préludes Bk. 2
2. Brouillards (3:33)
3. Feuilles mortes (3:14)
4. La puerta del vino (3:31)
5. Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses (3:09)
6. Bruyères (3:02)
7. Général lavine – eccentric (2:58)
8. La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune (4:37)
9. Ondine (3:31)
10. Hommage à S. Pickwick Esq. P.P.M.P.C. (2:33)
11. Canope (3:00)
12. Les tierces alternées (2:25)
13. Feux d’artifice (5:12)
Pour le piano
14. Prélude (4:13)
15. Sarabande (5:48)
16. Toccata (3:56)
17. Première arabesque (4:22)
18. Deuxième arabesque (3:18)
BONUS VIDEO: Clair de lune
A video conceived and produced by Katie Mahan
Katie has just established her own CD label, KM Classic, and will be releasing a series of new albums, beginning with an all-Debussy album entitled “Clair de lune”, which is scheduled for international release on June 28. The recordings will each feature a music video of one or more of the pieces on the CD, geared towards attracting new, young audiences to discover classical music and the stories behind the music.