John Musto: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2; Two Concert Rags


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?

Posted on YouTube by Bridge Records, here is the Second Movement of the Piano Concerto No. 1 from this album