piano | Worldwide
Acclaim

This recording, titled “Noctuelles,” was, for me, the auditory equivalent of love at first sight. I’d never heard composer-pianist Michael Brown perform before, but it took only the first few measures of Miroirs to convince me that I was in the presence of an exceptional colorist—and the more I listened, the more deeply that conviction took hold.

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Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare

"Noctuelles" consists of Ravel's Miroirs and Medtner's Second Improvisation (in variation form). Michael Brown also includes premiere recordings of two newly discovered variations.  This program works very well and is likely a by-product of Brown’s compositional skills. He may be classified as one of the new generation of pianist-composers, a moniker that was not used much in the second half of the 20th Century. 

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James Harrington, American Record Guide

Michael Brown’s magical concept and execution incline me to purple prose here, but Ravel’s choice of a line and a half from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as epigraph for the five pieces that comprise Miroirs will partly do the job: ‘…the eye sees not itself/But by reflection, by some other things.’ Sound, space and silence are inexplicably linked both in the unique impressions of 1905 and in Medtner’s Second Improvisation composed in the mid-1920s. 

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David Nice, BBC Music Magazine

Impressive throughout, Brown demonstrates incredible virtuosity, but more than this, great sensitivity to the detail and contrasts within this remarkably evocative music.

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Classical Notes

When I first noticed this pairing I was intriguedmostly by the mention of unrecorded Medtner manuscripts, but also by the seeming incongruity of the repertoire ...The pairing works wonderfully, with the fading notes of [Ravel's] Vallée des cloches leading seamlessly into [Medtner's] enigmatic Song of the water nymph, the theme of the Improvisation. Brown has the measure of both these works, with lovely pedalling throughout, and graded dynamics and colours.

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Rob Challinor, Music Web International

Pianist takes the plunge into a dark tale, rediscovering in Medtner's diabolical dreaminess Ravel's desperate imaginations.

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Jean-Charles Hoffelé, Artamag (Paris)

Pianist Michael Brown follows his earlier disc for First Hand Records (Beethoven and Mendelssohn) with this coupling of Ravel’s most extensive solo piano work and Medtner’s most extended such piece outside of his sonatas; here featuring two recently discovered variations.

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Richard Whitehouse, Arcana

As evidenced by his interpretation of Une barque sur l'océan from Ravel's Miroirs, his technique is crystalline, dynamically fluid and deeply expressive. And at the other end of the spectrum, as in the closing piece of Medtner's Second Improvisation, he can just as well evince the darker side of a piano's sonorities.

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Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Music Sentinel

Brown played from his own living room on "Daria," one of two late nineteenth century Steinways he owns. With shifting camera shots, one was able to witness not only his flashing fingers but his facial expressions and rapid eye movements as he tracked his physical movements up and down the keyboard. One also could glimpse his taste in art from the painting hanging on the wall behind him, and the sister Steinway ("Octavia") nestled beside Daria. How often are we invited into the intimacy of an artist's own home to hear him play where he practices?

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Laura Pollie Johnson, CVNC (Asheville, NC)

The Canellakis-Brown Duo—cellist Nicholas Canellakis and pianist Michael Brown—have been playing together for ten years and it shows. Their concert Tuesday night at the Baruch Performing Arts Center was a superb display of the kind of assured, responsive, sincere playing that is a pinnacle of chamber music performance yet is more often heard in jazz and other music than in classical.

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George Grella, New York Classical Review

For those of us who had not been ANYWHERE south this winter, Sunday’s Rockport Music Shalin Liu Hall provided a cure for the midwinter blues with an inspired and inspiringly-played concert by a quartet of four extraordinarily gifted friends who have played together in various permutations; they should really take it on the road.

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Susan Miron, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

On Wednesday ... the pianist and composer Michael Brown made his Mostly Mozart Festival debut at the Kaplan Penthouse. Since the final movement of the 'Eroica' Symphony, which many in his audience had just heard, is an epic set of variations, Mr. Brown began with a colorful account of Mendelssohn's impetuous 'Variations Sérieuses,' then played his own flinty yet playfully pointillist 'Folk Variations.' Nodding to the orchestra's earlier program, he ended his recital with a fearless performance of Beethoven's monumental 'Eroica' Variations ... 

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Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

The Heartland Festival Orchestra closed out its 10th season with a spectacular concert, "Triple Shot of Tchaikovsky," featuring an amazing piano soloist, Michael Brown ... Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor, Op. 23, received two standing ovations ...

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Elaine Hopkins, PeoriaStory

"Age of Anxiety" paired with the famous Fifth in a National Philharmonic concert commemorating Bernstein's birth and Beethoven's death 

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Mark Rudio, A Beast In The Jungle (San Francisco)

The work was inspired by Auden’s poem The Age of Anxiety, with the solo piano part meant to be a sort of running commentary by the poem’s protagonist ... Michael Brown gave a fresh, direct, and lively reading of the solo piano part that never grew over-inflated or threatened to bog the music down.

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Samuel Wigutow, ConcertoNet.com

One of the finest chamber concerts of the season, with a pair of rarities that proved genuine discoveries.

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Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review
Brown burnishes Mozart, Glinka, and Schumann in Chamber Music Society opener

Listeners heard a charming rendition of Mozart’s playful Andante and Five Variations in G for piano, four hands, with Michael Brown joining [Gloria] Chien. And Mr. Brown’s reading of Glinka’s variations on a Mozart theme was a highlight by the sheer force of his playing, his sound gently radiant.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times

Michael Brown, who played a piano recital Sunday afternoon as part of the Steinway Series at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, is identified as a pianist-composer, that musical persona with a glorious past. Pianist-composers go back to the likes of Mozart, Clementi and Beethoven in the late 18th century and had their heyday in such figures as Liszt, Chopin and Gottschalk. But after the careers of Rachmaninoff, Bartok and Prokofiev in the mid-20th century, there was a distinct falling off. Presumably Brown would like to change that.

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Patrick Rucker, The Washington Post

Variations and fugues are the overriding themes of pianist/composer Michael Brown’s captivating new album (on First Hand Records) that pairs his own music with pieces by Leonard Bernstein, Felix Mendelssohn, and Beethoven...This is an altogether smart and enjoyable release.

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Jonathan Blumhofer, The Arts Fuse

The Concerto No. 1, tricky for the conductor, is a brilliant showpiece for piano. It’s clear Shostakovich wrote it for himself to play. It’s a substantial, meaty piece of music, which generally means it’s also a handful...Brown, a past Rising Star of the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, returned to West Michigan to give a performance that was clean and precise but still with an undercurrent of passion just below the surface.

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Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk, grsymphony.org

“It is one of the most challenging, one of the most unrelenting and difficult pieces in the grand scope of symphonic work with piano...You definitely have to sort of choreograph how you are going to play this work. Even the most simple things are not simple,” Brown said. “When you do know it, it’s such a joy to play.”

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Alicia Notarianni, Whatsnxt.com

The Jupiter String Quartet gave an exciting concert of chamber music on Nov. 30 in the Foellinger Great Hall. The quartet members, Nelson Lee and Meg Freivogel, violins, Liz Freivogel, viola, and Daniel McDonough, cello, were joined by pianist Michael Brown, who is also currently composer in residence with the New Haven Symphony in Connecticut.

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John Frayne, The News-Gazette (Urbana, Illinois)

Mr. Brown's playing was so clear and thoughtful in the sad and somewhat hesitant piano solo that begins the Andante sostenuto. ... The final movement begins agitato, with Mr. Brown running off a jaunty piano bit before all join in. The piano is in fact quite prominent throughout this Allegro con brio: from a quaint tune to an almost "toy" piano moment, Mr. Brown has it all superbly in hand. 

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Oberon, Oberon's Grove

Michael Brown at the Steinway played with thrilling verve and clarity [in Prokofiev's D-Major Sonata for Violin and Piano] ... Kristin Lee, a beauty in black, was so impressive in her technical command, with Mr. Brown an ideal colleague in both the passion and beauty of his playing. As the duo embraced at the end of their superb performance, the audience lavished well-deserved cheers upon them.

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Oberon, Oberon's Grove
Brown's "Folk Variations": Authentic American work from a refined pianist-composer

In the July/August 2017 edition of International Piano, Benjamin Ivry considers the work of Michael Brown in the context of pianist-composers from the time of Clara Schumann to the present. Brown’s Folk Variations, Ivry writes, "is an authentic major work, in which close listening, especially to silence, is treasured. In theme-and-variations form, based around the tune Yankee Doodle, it has the added complexity of not actually including the melody of Yankee Doodle in its thematic section. Instead, Brown explains, Folk Variations ‘rather uses [the song’s] pitches rearranged and stacked vertically to create a more modern “American” sonority.’ One of the most refined of all pianist-composers, Brown may, like Samuil Feinberg, eventually be promoted to the status of composer-pianist." 

Benjamin Ivry, International Piano

Pianists Gilles Vonsattel and Michael Brown played superbly [in Barber's Souvenirs], the opening mark in a concert in which all the performances were at the highest level.

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George Grella, New York Classical Review

Mr. Brown devised an intriguing program juxtaposing the rarely performed Mendelssohn Preludes and Fugues op. 35 with contemporary works (his own and that of Leonard Bernstein). The underlying theme was, as we heard, that of fugue and variation: a very clever concept representing a thinking pianist rather than the more typical Juilliard-graduate-virtuoso.

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Roman Markowicz, ConcertoNet.com

An interview / feature on Michael Brown that addresses his background and future as a pianist/composer. 

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Catherine Yang, The Epoch Times

Violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Michael Brown...are polished, immensely self-assured prizewinners who come from prestigious musical backgrounds...Urioste produces her full-bodied, slightly grainy, always pleasing sound with a physical ease that reflects her long-standing interest in yoga. She is capable of the most exquisitely hushed soft playing, the kind that grabs the heart and holds on to it. Brown, who is also a composer, is an intelligent and musical pianist. 

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Patrick Rucker, The Washington Post

A large audience in Great Barrington’s Mahaiwe Theater braved the snow and cold for a warm, heartfelt, and satisfying chamber concert on March 18...The young virtuoso pianist, Michael Brown, took Beethoven’s role at the piano in all three works, engaging more and more deeply as the evening proceeded, the house warmed up, and the musicians sorted out the intimate communications which these challenging works require.

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Carolyn and Eli Newberger, Berkshire Edge
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