Jeffrey Biege reviews
*Biegel is an artist in the grand style
"Delivering one of the most exciting Springfield Symphony performances in recent memory, pianist Jeffrey Biegel, Maestro Kevin Rhodes and the SSO blew the roof off of Symphony Hall Saturday evening with a rip-roaring rendition of the Tchaikovsky B-flat minor Piano Concerto.
Grand gestures, avalanches of tone, and fusillades of piano octaves hammered out at blinding speed were balanced by richly hued orchestral canvasses and elegantly phrased melodies arched above heart-rending harmonies."
*Biegel ... performed it solidly
"Mirrors," in five movements, runs about 22 minutes and makes a legitimate claim on the audience's attention. It's a well crafted piece, made up of sections with titles such as "The Trickster" and "The Warrior." It was composed for Jeffrey , reading from the score.
"Mirrors" employs a number of styles, including those of Bartok and Bernstein, but the piece doesn't feel pretentious or derivative. It is by turns percussive, lyrical, jazzy and percussive again. It is also emotionally direct and high-spirited. Biegel's rounded tone was heard to best effect in the cadenza introducing the fourth movement, "The Poet."
Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2010
*BIEGEL PREMIERES DANIELPOUR'S 'MIRRORS FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA'
"Danielpour's "Mirrors" is an entertaining work, and I don't think the composer would mind my saying so. The movements are given titles "The Trickster," "The Witness," "The Gambler," "The Poet," "The Warrior." These are "personality archetypes," the composer says, aspects of each of our personalities, and "Mirrors" is a suite of character pieces, painting those traits in musical terms.
This newest piece is fluently written, witty in spots, and the solo pianist (Jeffrey Biegel) has plenty of flattering music, both poetic and virtuosic, to play. "The Trickster" is almost a bit of vaudeville, the pianist kicking up his heels with a fluffy show tune, the rhythmic syncopations faster than the eye, the back and forth between soloist and orchestra like the give and take of a couple of comedians.
"The Gambler" is somewhat similar, but here the syncopations are more in the raucous Bernstein mode, the rhythms jazzy, the pianist zipping through fistfuls of notes as if he were dealing a loaded deck of cards. "The Witness" evokes an Ivesian mode, slow and mysterious, still and watching, as if things are happening in slow motion. "The Poet" comes off like American Rachmaninoff, frankly sweet, nostalgic, Romantic and melodic. "The Warrior" brings it all home with a driving, stomping, Prokofiev-like movement.
Biegel, an old Juilliard classmate of Danielpour's, already had it under his fingers, played it cleanly and clearly, and with style."
Orange County Register, February 26, 2010
*Mr. Biegel has it all
This sounded like an intriguing novelty, and I approached this stranger dogwise warily, but with tail wagging. I'm happy to report that I was immediately won over. Mr. Biegel has it all: his arrangements are tasteful, his grasp of the Vivaldi idiom profound, and all that wedded to a simply stupendous technique. The addition of the two other little concerti rounds out this thoroughly delightful excursion into immediately accessible esoterica. Bravo, bravissimo!
Giv Cornfield, The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, June 2009
*Don't judge it before you hear it!
Why transcribe Vivaldi's ubiquitous Four Seasons for solo piano when a gazillion recordings of the orchestral original can be had? That's a question pianist and transcriber Jeffrey Biegel eloquently addresses in the booklet notes he provides for his own performance. In essence, Biegel elaborates upon and embellishes the unaccredited solo-piano Four Seasons arrangement published by Ricordi with a keen sense of style and keyboard deployment. His vivacious, gorgeously detailed, thoroughly committed, and beautifully engineered piano playing constantly delights.
The wealth of tone color Biegel squeezes from the endless violin trills in high registers precludes any danger of the music turning percussive or tinkly, while rapid repeated notes and double notes effortlessly fall from his fingers (the G minor's Presto is quite a tour-de-force in this regard). Listen also to how adroitly Biegel weighs the dissonances in the F minor first movement's churning accompaniment.
Andrew Gentile's two concerto transcriptions are no less effective, mainly due to Biegel's ear for detail, such as the varied articulations and dynamic contrasts he brings to echoed passages (the C major mandolin concerto's finale, for example). What easily could have been a gimmick turns out to be no less than one of 2009's most enjoyable piano recordings. Don't judge it before you hear it!
Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com, August 2009
*Familiar music in an unfamiliar guise: Vivaldi's piano-Four-te Seasons
If Spring is my favourite season, I could quite happily pass the remainder of my days without ever hearing again Vivaldi's musical representation of it. But I could not resist investigating this intriguing new disc. After all, there is no solo keyboard music by Vivaldi a strange omission by such an industrious composer and I cannot recall another recording of any of his music played on the piano. Do Vivaldi's bucolic impressions come across on a concert grand? How successfully have the two (American) transcribers translated idiomatic string-writing into the language of the keyboard?
The answer is most effectively, perhaps surprisingly so.
Jeffrey Biegel's hyphenated seasonal cycle is based on the solo piano arrangement published by Ricordi (the transcriber is anonymous) with his own minor additions and broadenings of textures not wholly literal transcriptions (as Liszt commented, "in matters of translation here are some exactitudes that are the equivalent of infidelities") but unadorned adaptations of the originals. At times you might be listening to a Scarlatti sonata (the repeated notes in the athletically executed outer movements of Summer, for instance). Andrew Gentile's arrangements show greater pianistic imagination, exchanging registers, adding new contrapuntal voices and embellishing passagework, while remaining faithful to Vivaldi's style and spirit.
Biegel's performances are right on the money and quite transcend the oddity factor, offering a fresh and original take on these much-loved scores. The recording (produced and engineered by Joseph Patrych) is out of the top drawer.
A disc, dare I say it, that put a spring in my step.
Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone, October 2009
*Dazzling pianist Jeffrey Biegel nearly upstages seamless NHSO
One star's cancellation can become another performer's opportunity, as the audience at Woolsey Hall discovered at Thursday's concert by the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.
When dishy, photogenic pianist Irena Koblar had to withdraw as soloist, Jeffrey Biegel stepped in on short notice. He may not have the glossy glamour photos that grace Koblar's Web site, but Biegel proved to be an exciting powerhouse pianist with a staggering technique. The young American already has a following in this country. He excels at athletic keyboard challenges like the Etudes by Frederic Chopin, and his work can be sampled on YouTube in brief takes.
Playing with the NHSO here, Biegel hit one exciting peak after another in a work that demands virtuoso gifts the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major by Johannes Brahms.
A totally contrasting effect was still to come, though, in the wistful opening andante of the third movement, where the pianist's legato phrases positively glowed.
David J. Baker, New Haven Register, November 15, 2009
*... turned out a marvelous set of gently improvised-upon Mozart sonatas
"Antonio Vivaldi, The Four Seasons, arranged for piano by Jeffrey Biegel, Jeffrey Biegel, piano (Naxos). Sometimes, arranging orchestral music for piano can place it in a whole new light. I once heard Beethoven's "Pastorale" as arranged for piano by Glenn Gould, and it sounded startling and New Age. Hearing Vivaldi on piano, you notice the music's flaws. But the occasional repetitiveness and flat-footed rhythms gain a new charm, like Philip Glass. The piano also makes you appreciate Vivaldi's moments of sublimity the slow movement of "Winter," for instance, which shines in its genius and simplicity. Biegel, who just turned out a marvelous set of gently improvised-upon Mozart sonatas, adds the same discreet embellishments to these pieces. He shows you new things in them. As a follow-up to "The Four Seasons," he plays a lute concerto and a mandolin concerto, both arranged by Andrew Gentile. This is a great novelty at a bargain price, and a bright new look at a composer we thought we knew inside out. "
Mary Kunz Goldman, Buffalo News
*... a surprising intimacy
"The scripted program ended with pianist Jeffrey Biegel soloing in "Rhapsody in Blue". Biegel gave the solos a surprising intimacy, a sense of a jazzman's musings late at night in a saloon, and the orchestra played with jazzy freedom in the solos."
The Day, New London, CT, September 28, 2009
*Jeffrey Biegel: Embellished Excellence
"American pianist Jeffrey Biegel is the latest musical artist to undertake a daunting project to record Mozart's complete cycle of piano sonatas. In hands of some less gifted artists, Mozart can sound very dry and boring. But when played well, as in Mr. Biegel's polished performances, the music sparkles with seemingly transparent simplicity while further pulling the listener into deep, profound, and virtuosic beauty. From this first volume of three CD's, Sonata No. 2 in F Major (K. 280) emerges as a quintessential masterpiece of Mozartean charm, and Mr. Biegel performs it to perfection, a definite favorite. Throughout the series, the tempos are well chosen, portraying a variety of dramatic, thrilling, humorous, and touching qualities appropriate to each movement. Mozart's gift of melody is consistently sung with beautiful clarity in Mr. Biegel's interpretations, while the accompaniment figures and development sections are also fully explored, revealing the deeper musical magic beyond the melodic themes. What makes these performances unique also is Mr. Biegel's adventurous spirit of improvisation, with embellishments added to the repeated expositions. Mr. Biegel's embellishments are effective yet subtle enhancements, showcasing an appropriate level of artistic freedom while not straying so far as to alter the composer's intent. I admired the decision to present the sonatas in numerical order, and the recordings are meticulously captured, creating a listening experience that is incredibly enjoyable, and wholly worth owning."
Lee Streby, September, 2009