The pleasurable sensuousness of ‘Eros Piano’

Eros Piano, a work by John Adams, is such a delightful piece. If I were a concert pianist it would be part of my repertory for sure! 🙂 YouTube offers only one performance of Eros Piano, the one here above, played by pianist Jay Gottlieb with L’Ensemble Orchestral de Paris conducted by John Nelson.

Composer John Adams wrote the work – almost a small piano concerto in one movement – in memory of two of his composer heroes, Morton Feldman and Toru Takemitsu. About the music Adams wrote that it’s “a quiet, dreamy soliloquy for piano, played against a soft, lush fabric of orchestral screens and clusters. It was a direct response on my part to a piece by Toru Takemitsu, riverrun, that I had heard in a performance by the English pianist Paul Crossley. (..) I wrote Eros Piano as a tribute to Takemitsu, to Bill Evans, and also to Paul Crossley, whose exquisitly balanced sense of color and attack in music by Debussy, Ravel, Messiaen and Takemitsu reminded me so strongly of that of Bill Evans.”

Pianist Jay Gottlieb with L’Ensemble Orchestral de Paris conducted by John Nelson deliver an enjoyable and admirable performance, but is that enough? Do they reveal the work’s sophisticated soul? I think I’ve heard better in another performance, a well known one, played by pianist Paul Crossley with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s/The London Sinfonietta, conducted by composer John Adams himself and available on the album American Elegies (1991). In my opinion Crossley, Adams and the London Sinfonietta are more convincing in revealing the work’s pleasurable sensuousness and this comes across in many wonderful tonal colours and in their highly sophisticated outline of the work’s dynamics.