While several important areas of music by American composer John Musto can be heard on CD, including samplings of his chamber music, opera, and a considerable selection of songs, nothing of his orchestral oeuvre has been made available until the release of this Bridge Records CD. Bridge has recorded Musto’s two major works with orchestra, the Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2, on an album which also includes two movements from Five Concert Rags for solo piano. Evidently a very fine pianist himself (it is as a pianist that he was known at the beginning of his career), Mr. Musto is the soloist in the two piano concertos and also plays the rags.
Although the First (1988/2005) and Second (2006) piano concertos are quite different in character, they are very similar in their harmonic language and in the proficiency with which Musto pulls in accents from different genres, most notably his rather Gershwinesque reminiscences of early jazz and ragtime. Of the two, the First Concerto is a markedly more serious work, especially the expansive first movement which can be intense, grim, even harsh at times. The Second Concerto exhibits a sunnier character. Employing a wide range of percussion instruments in both works, Musto keeps his music fresh, colorful and engaging. Harmonically, it is tonal, although it will often run pretty far afield of its center, move in unpredictable directions and use tonal combinations that produce sharply vivid colorations. Still, there is nothing here that is remotely atonal.
The sample from the album I’ve supplied, with the kind permission of Bridge Records, is the concluding third movement of the First Piano Concerto, marked Scorrevole (flowing). It’s a moto perpetuo much lighter in character from the opening movement – even bubbly and frisky much of the time – that concludes in exciting fashion (as does the Second Concerto) with a tutti orchestral surge. The more times I listened to this disc, the more I enjoyed John Musto’s orchestral style. I hope there’s more coming! Might we next get to hear a symphony, Mr. Musto?
In recent years, John Musto has been praised as one of America’s great musical talents. Fanfare magazine called him “not just the leading vocal composer of his generation, but perhaps also the leading one of opera.” Musto’s operas, his chamber music, and his prolific catalog of songs and song cycles have been performed and recorded by a plethora of leading artists, giving us a very clear picture of his range and accomplishment. Missing until now, however, has been a recording of two of his major works- the two concertos for piano and orchestra. This recording presents Musto’s own superb interpretations of his two concertos- No. 1, a thirty-minute dark, brooding score; and No. 2 a joyous and extroverted celebration. As encores, Musto performs two of his delicious Concert Rags. These other John Musto recordings are available on Bridge: Songs of John Musto (BRIDGE 9286); the opera, Bastianello (BRIDGE 9299A/B).
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1988/2005)
John Musto, piano, Odense Symphony Orchestra, Scott Yoo, conductor
Two Concert Rags: Regrets (1996); In Stride (1990)
John Musto, piano
Piano Concerto No. 2 (2006)
John Musto, piano, Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra, Glen Cortese, conductor
John Musto, composer & pianist
In recent years, John Musto has been praised as one of America’s great musical talents. Fanfare magazine called him “not just the leading vocal composer of his generation, but perhaps also the leading one of opera.” His interpretations of his own music and that of other composers are rivaled by his extraordinary gifts as an improviser.
Glen Cortese, conductor
Glen Cortese begins his seventh season as music director of the Greeley Philharmonic and his ninth season as artistic director of the Western New York Chamber. He was named music director emeritus of the Oregon Mozart Players after serving as artistic director for nine seasons.
Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra
The Greeley Philharmonic is the longest-running orchestra in the Rocky Mountain region. The GPO has contributed greatly to the music culture in our city and also takes great pride in nurturing, inspiring, and enriching lives through symphonic music and education.