Bach To Black: Suites for Piano, Vol. II
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Pianist Rochelle Sennet continues her recordings of Bach coupled with works by Black composers.

Bach to Black: Suites for Piano, Vol. II represents pianist Rochelle Sennet's continued interest in performing suites and multi-movement works by Black composers in combination with works by Johann Sebastian Bach. In addition to works by Ulysses Kay, Harry Thacker Burleigh, and George Walker, this 3-cd volume contains works by three Black women composers: Florence Price; Montague Ring; and Joyce Solomon Moorman. Dr. Rochelle Sennet has established herself as a well-known performer, teacher, and scholar. She studied at the San Francisco Conservatory, the University of Michigan, Texas Christian University and the University of Illinois, where she currently serves on the faculty. A prize-winner of numerous competitions, she has appeared as a recitalist at concert halls across the U.S., as a soloist with ensembles and orchestras, and has presented frequent guest lectures, masterclasses, and clinics.
Contents:
Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
Partita No. 3 in A Minor, BWV827
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Ulysses Simpson Kay, composer
Eight Inventions for Piano
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
Partita No. 4 in D Major, BWV828
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Harry Thackery Burleigh, composer
From the Southland Suite
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
Partita No. 2 in C Minor, BWV826
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Florence Beatrice Price, composer
Seven Descriptive Pieces
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
Partita No. 5 in G Major, BWV829
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Montague Ring, composer
Carnival: Suite of Five Dances
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
Partita No. 6 in E Minor, BWV830
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Joyce Solomon Moorman, composer
Piano Suite
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
Partita No. 1 in B-Flat Major, BWV825
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

George Walker, composer
Guido's Hand: Five Pieces for Piano
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Review:
The pianist Rochelle Sennet returns with more interpretations of works by Bach and black composers, and this time it’s spread out across 3 discs that includes pieces by black woman composers, i.e. Florence Price, Montague Ring, and Joyce Solomon Moorman. Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Paritita No. 3 in A Minor, BWV 827” starts the listen with meticulous, fascinating playing that’s quite mesmerizing and full of plenty of melodic progressions, and further on “From The Southland Suite”, by Harry Thacker Burleigh, emits both beauty and playfulness in its very charming delivery. The middle disc offers us the dreamy elegance of Florence Beatrice Price’s “Seven Descriptive Pieces”, as well as the animated and upbeat dynamics of “Carnival: Suite of Five Dances”, which indeed seems like it could soundtrack a day under the The Big Top. Nearing the end, the emotive and stirring “Piano Suite”, by Joyce Solomon Moorman, is one of the best selections and certainly is cause for reflection, and George Theophilus Walker’s “Guido’s Hand: Five Pieces for Piano” is particularly distinct, where Sennet’s finger acrobatics are nothing short of stunning. Sennet is a performer, teacher, and scholar, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone else who can play a piano and interpret music like this. Three discs might seem like a lot of piano music to absorb, but in these capable hands it never out welcomes its stay. (www.takeeffect.com)

Dr Rochelle Sennet teaches piano at the University of Illinois, and she is an Associate Dean there. She is obviously an outstanding pianist, on the evidence of her recordings plus her biography of concert work and adjudicating competitions. She designed her “Bach to Black” series because she noticed that she gets remarkably different audiences for her concerts when she programs music by black composers (including these), or when she plays only Bach. Her aim is to reach listeners who might be enticed into the hall by different repertoire, and then to demonstrate that it’s all attractive music. The layout here is to have two Bach suites on each of the three discs, and each suite is followed by a shorter suite-like piece that relates to it in some way. The 78 minutes of non-Bach could have fit onto a disc by itself, but that would defeat her purpose. When it’s shuffled together, listeners take what comes next. I admit that I copied out these shorter pieces and burned them to a separate CD for myself, anyway. I wanted to listen to them more for pleasure than to evaluate them. These pieces are the great finds, for me, and I have too many other sets of the Bach Partitas on piano already. Ulysses Kay’s Eight Inventions from 1946 are short contrapuntal exercises like Bach’s, but not quite tonal. They wouldn’t be out of place in Hindemith’s Ludus Tonalis. Harry Burleigh’s suite From the Southland sweetly and gently crosses the styles of spirituals and Dvorak. I’d want to hear more of this affectionate music, but this suite is Burleigh’s only solo piano piece (as opposed to his well-known choral music). His grand setting of `My Lord, what a mornin’ is a high point of this piano suite. Florence Price’s 7 Descriptive Pieces from 1927-28 are charming and witty. “Montague Ring” was the British composer Amanda Aldridge. Her Carnival suite from 1924 evokes Italian operetta. In the first movement, the right hand’s octaves sound hard to play melodically. …Joyce Solomon Moorman’s 1974 Piano Suite has nine extremely short movements played without pause. It has acerbic gestures and 12-tone organization, like George Theophilus Walker’s Guido’s Hand, which concludes the program. She is an expert in Walker’s music, having studied it for her graduate work. She also got to interview Walker near the end of his life, while preparing to record his piano concerto and Da Camera (Jan/Feb 2013). These atonal pieces get Sennet’s most passionate-sounding and richest sonorities from her Yamaha.…Considered against the huge competition, how are her performances of the Bach Partitas, which (I assume) is the primary reason I was given this reviewing assignment? I like her outstanding fluency and relaxed confidence. She projects an attractive wistfulness in the minor keys. Everything is mellifluous and it moves along without dragging. Within each Partita, she chooses a character for each dance or large section, and then she adheres to it with careful control. (American Record Guide)
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