Piano, Conductor | Worldwide Representation
February 10, 2015

A new recording by pianist Benjamin Hochman centers around the theme of variations and follows his critically acclaimed AVIE debut Homage to Schubert (AV 2281). At the heart of the album is the Handel Variations by Brahms, a grand master of the art form as well as four shorter piano variations by contemporary composers Knussen, Berio, Benjamin and Lieberson. The recording will be released by AVIE on February 17 (AV 2327.)

Many argue that variation is the most primal, flexible and durable of musical forms. Few things are simpler or more musically satisfying than varying a melody by adding an expressive ornament or changing its harmonisation. Exploiting this basic principle has yielded masterpieces in variation form across virtually every era and genre. It is appropriate that Mr. Hochman formed an album of compositional works around the use of variation.

The grandest work presented on this album is Brahms’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel. Brahms was arguably the greatest master of variations, writing several works in variation form for piano and incorporating variation movements into his chamber music and symphonies. The principle of developing variation, whereby thematic material evolves and is transformed, was deeply ingrained in his compositional style. In that sense, Brahms provides a direct link to musical modernism, a fact that Schoenberg recognized in his famous essay Brahms the Progressive.

The four shorter piano variations on this recording are by major composers of the late 20th and early 21st century: Oliver Knussen, Luciano Berio, George Benjamin and Peter Lieberson. Each composition is a piece of great beauty and depth; the results are strikingly diverse. In addition, this album celebrates the world premiere recording of Lieberson's Piano Variations.

Benjamin Hochman

Described by The New York Times as a “gifted, fast-rising artist,” Mr. Hochman was the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2011 and performs around the world as an orchestral soloist, recitalist and respected chamber music partner working with a celebrated array of renowned conductors and colleagues.  His debut solo recording of works by Bach, Berg and Webern was released by Artek in 2009 and he performed on a recording of chamber music by Lawrence Dillon in 2010 with the Daedalus Quartet.  Variations was recorded in June 2014 at the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is produced by Erin Wen and recorded and engineered by Dennis Patterson.

Mr. Hochman’s committment to both classical and contemporary music is reflected in performance highlights of the last several seasons. He is currently exploring Italian culture through the ages in a recital presented by The Italian Academy at Columbia University that also includes a world premiere by Matthew Aucoin. In great demand by prestigious chamber ensembles worldwide, he collaborates with the Elias and Casals Quartets and the Variation Trio in recital amongst numerous other chamber engagements. He reunites with the Daedalus Quartet for Weinberg’s Piano Quintet in a Miller Theatre Pop-Up concert in New York City on May 11 and makes appearances with violinist Jennifer Koh and cellist Anssi Karttunen at the Library of Congress and in Toronto in May performing the works of Saariaho and Schumann.

Mr. Hochman's first album released on Avie Records, entitled Homage to Schubert, received critical praise for both its programming choices and virtuosic performances. His performance at SubCulture in NYC with renditions of four contemporary works that explore the form of theme and variation was named a top pick performance of the year by the New York Times.

Benjamin Hochman's website
AVIE Records

Variations (AV 2327)


Oliver Knussen
1. Variations Op.24

Luciano Berio
2. Cinque Variazioni

George Benjamin
3. Meditation on Haydn’s Name

Peter Lieberson
Piano Sonata in D, D850
4. Piano Variations World premiere recording

Johannes Brahms
Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel Op.24
5. Aria
6. Variation I: Più vivo
7. Variation II 
8. Variation III
9. Variation IV
10. Variation V
11. Variation VI
12. Variation VII
13. Variation VIII 
14. Variation IX 
15. Variation X: Allegro
16. Variation XI: Moderato
17. Variation XII: L’istesso tempo
18. Variation XIII: Largamente, ma non troppo 
19. Variation XIV 
20. Variation XV 
21. Variation XVI 
22. Variation XVII 
23. Variation XVIII 
24. Variation XIX
25. Variation XX: Andante 
26 .Variation XXI: Vivace 
27. Variation XXII: Alla Musette 
28. Variation XXIII: Vivace 
29. Variation XXIV 
30. Variation XXV 
31. Fuga: Moderato

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