Robert Prester

Prester releases a long-awaited compilation of solo piano classical selections, in a carefully curated studio concert format, including the recording debut of his original sonata for piano.

Those who think they know the work of composer-pianist Robert Prester from his four jazz albums – most recently, the nimble and playful “Dogtown” – are likely to be pleasantly surprised by the introduction to his classical side that you hold in your hands. And if you are approaching this recording with an awareness of the Beethoven, Debussy, Bach and Chopin pieces he has selected, you will surely enjoy his authoritative approach and articulately executed musical choices  he brings to the works of these masters.       This exciting classical/jazz synthesis is the culmination of Prester’s lifelong relationship with the piano. Precocious young Robert, having started piano studies at 3,  was performing Bach concert pieces from the age of 8, developing his technique and his taste for the classics.  After a fortuitous clerical “mistake”, being placed in a jazz composition course rather than classical, Robert unexpectedly discovered a new medium for his talent, and began concentrating his performance and composition efforts on his own distinctive Latin-tinged jazz sound. But by 2000, in part because he began playing two-piano concerts with his accomplished mother Marcia, Prester’s attention and career returned to the classics.         By 2005, he began work on what would become his Sonata in F minor, the major piece that leads off this disc. This sonata, with it’s mixed classic and modern sound, fits perfectly in this eclectic recorded concert. I feel certain that you will agree.     Prester’s sonata is not improvised, but his use of jazz harmonies suggest a spontaneity with which jazz fans will feel at home. Within traditional sonata structure, he introduces harmonics that are anything but traditional. Instead of composing with visual images in mind, Prester writes with an emotional through line. Listen for the way each movement has a distinct emotional flavor, from romantic and bittersweet to a chromatic upheaval.     You could say that Prester’s own approach to his sonata has been evolving in the 11 years since he copyrighted the piece, but his relationship with many of the other selections on this recording go back much further. Like the Chopin ballade, which he recalls first performing at music camp while he was in the 11th grade. And then there’s the Beethoven sonata, a relatively recent undertaking for Prester, because as he puts it, “I think every concert needs a Beethoven piece.”     It is likely that this will be your first exposure to Prester’s own sonata, but his aim here is to perform all of the selected works as if they are being heard for the first time. So sit back, turn your living room into a concert hall and enjoy Rapsodya.

Hap Erstein The Palm Beach Post Palm Beach ArtsPaper WJNO Radio

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