Thursday 29 April 2021

Eight Sketches for Piano by the young American composer Aidan Vass

Aidan Vass: Eight Sketches for Piano

Aidan Vass is a young (17-year-old!) composer based in Los Angeles. He is a two-time YoungArts winner and composer fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is studying under composer Andrew Norman, who is the director of the Los Angeles Philarmonic's Composer Fellowship Program for high school composers. As a fellow, Vass has written for ensembles such as the American Youth Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Vass has already developed significant catalogue, with solo pieces, chamber music, choral pieces and orchestra. On 14 March, he released his debut solo piano album, Eight Sketches for Piano, and he has spent the last year on the project and has written, performed, and engineered the album by himself.

Eight Sketches for Piano is, as the title suggests, eight piano solos lasting in total a little over 30 minutes. The titles, 'Life', 'Mourning', 'Sleep', 'Vice', 'Purgatory', 'Crucis', 'Silentium', 'Ascensio' are clear indicators of a narrative. Vass discribes it thus, the work 'captures an individual’s struggle with morality. Each piece explores a distinct topic that contributes to an overarching narrative, which follows the juxtaposition of one’s loss of morality with the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.'

This is serious stuff and these are serious pieces, and the music is well away from atmospheric noodling and Vass has created eight rather striking works with an interesting complexity of texture. There are plenty of influences that we can detect, but Vass seems well set to develop his own voice. The music is tonal and uses harmonic development, with some interesting piano textures. It isn't Minimalism, and the voice that emerges from the music is very engaging. You can follow the work's programme, or simply enjoy a series of richly romantic piano sketches.

Vass' on-line offering for Eight Sketches for Piano encompasses not just his performances and his notes, but also PDFs of the music. If you are interested in supporting a talented young composer then do try. Further information from Vass' website and on-line streaming from Hearnow.

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