pianist • teacher
Check out my performance of Bernstein's Touches,
recorded in spring 2018!
Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990)
Touches: Chorale, Eight Variations and Coda (1981)
Bernstein composed Touches for the sixth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas in 1981. By this time, Bernstein was an international star, acclaimed for works like West Side Story, conducting the New York Philharmonic through the 1960s, and appearing in numerous television documentaries. Touches is a set of eight short variations on the opening chorale, which teems with lyrical dissonance. Bernstein’s characteristic eclecticism is evident in the work’s quick alternation between “serious” art music styles and jazz elements. Complex rhythms and frequently changing meter provide a driving force from start to finish. The work has been compared to Copland’s Piano Variations (1930) as well as Bernstein’s own Virgo Blues (1978), a short work he composed for his daughter Jamie's twenty-sixth birthday.
Bernstein dedicated the work “To my first love, the keyboard,”
and offers this introduction in the score:
Touches = (French) the keys of the keyboard.
= different “feels” of the fingers, hands and arms:
deep, light, percussive, gliding, floating,
= small bits (cf., “a touch of garlic”); each variation
is a soupçon, lasting from 20 to 100 seconds apiece.
= vignettes of discrete emotions: brief musical manifestations
of being “touched”, or moved.
= gestures of love, especially between composer and performer,
performer and listener…