Six Ornamental Etudes ...
In the Washington-Star News Irving Lowen wrote: "Benjamin Lees [is] one of the most gifted of living American composers....The five etudes alternate between rhythmic thrust and intense lyricism, rising to a most satisfying climax in the last two....It has the immediacy of appeal which marks genuine, passionately felt music, and quite a few piano virtuosos should be attracted to it."
Steve Schwartz, writing at www.classicalcdreview.com, wrote as follows:
"Lees intended his piano-and-orchestra Etudes, like those of Chopin and Debussy, simultaneously as demonstrations of technique and as real music. You can read about the technical workout Lees puts the piano soloist through in the composer's liner notes. It's basically a five- movement suite. Despite the virtuosity it demands, it's not a concerto as we've come to think of the form -- that is, virtuosity allied with a symphonic motion. The movements are basically epigrammatic -- pungent ideas, varied to be sure, but not coalescing into an extended argument. There's no room. The longest piece doesn't hit six minutes. Each idea makes an immediate impression and you never have to wonder where you are in a movement. If I had to choose, I'd pick the fourth movement as my favorite, though it's not the flashiest. It is, however, the one that comes closest to a symphonic journey, where moods transform and you end up somewhere other than the point of departure. Each movement, however, brims full with Lees' sense of concerto-theater. Again, his normal, natural point of view strikes me as a dramatic one."
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