John Bell Young is an American pianist who has established himself as a Scriabinist of international repute. His recital disc features striking readings of sonatas 5 and 7, plus a number of shorter works (Americus 1013). His reading of 7 is memorable; he plays it significantly more slowly than most, and it works; he obtains a ritual atmosphere entirely in keeping with the sonata's "White Mass" appellation. Sonata 5 is paced beautifully, and Young makes more of its contrasts than do many pianists; the slow passages are particularly ruminative. Throughout this disc you hear a musician who has reflected deeply on this music and has strong and original ideas about how it should be performed. Young's disc also contains some non-Scriabin works, including his own lovely transcription of Mahler's Adagietto from Symphony 5, played with melting pathos.

David McIntire,
cited from Classical Music: Third Ear -- The Essential Listening Companion (Backbeat Books)


 

 

The valiant John Bell Young cultivates a suaveness of pedaling...He has at his command a touch vibrantly sensual, even seductive."

Pascal Brissaud, Le Monde de la Musique


 

"Two fine CDs from Newport Classic should introduce the music of Nietzsche to a wider audience. In Piano Music of Friedrich Nietzsche, Young is again the pianist, joined...by the excellent lyric tenor, John Aler for 16 songs. Charming...genuinely affecting.

Elliot Ravetz, Time


 

"When I listen to Nietzsche's own modest compositions, so redolent of early romanticism, I am influenced by his philosophy to hear something else coming to an end: the assumption that a common language of tone and idea exists. We are Nietzsche's heirs... [John Bell Young] serves this music with taste."

Edward Rothstein, The New York Times

 

"I was most impressed by John Bell Young's performance of Scriabin's 5th Sonata. He demonstrated great power, imagination and a rhythm full of life, all the elements indispensable for an interpreter of my father's music."

Marina Scriabine, Paris 1983


 

 

 

"Young's performances of Scriabin are that rare combination of spontaneity and discipline, intelligence and Dionysian abandon."

Faubion Bowers, author of Scriabin: A Biography of the Russian Composer

 

 

"The audience enthusiastically greeted the young American's performance, so full of energy, radiance and good will... The performance was not only brilliant, but amazing."

Boris Mazo, Chaspik, St.Petersburg, Russia



 

"Reviewers have praised [John Bell Young and his] Nietzsche Music Project...for his interpretation of some baffling scores. Recordings offer plenty of surprises... Instead of the grandiose thundering associated with Nietzsche's philosophy, the music is personal in scale, intimate, even fragile, eerily prescient... "

Steve Coates, The Wall Street Journal


 

 

"The commercial release of recordings of Nietzsche's musical compositions is an important event...the recent Newport Classic digital recording (NPD 85513) makes an important contribution to this somewhat evanescent field. The Nietzsche Music Project's promise of a second CD...is also welcome news. Mr. Young's readings of Nietzsche's sometimes awkward scores is sensitive to nuance and intelligent in its grasp of structure...But such qualifications are of only marginal significance in the context of the historical and intellectual value of making Nietzsche's music readily available to a wide audience."

Paul Miklowitz, Piano Quarterly, Summer 1992


 

Suave...engaging...winningly boisterous, with some bold piano strokes that are undeniably dramatic. The disc offers 17 piano pieces, handsomely played by pianist John Bell Young, who researched the autograph scores and inaugurated the project... It should shed interesting light on the interaction among music, literature and philosophy."

Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle


 

"What is Nietzsche's music like to listen to? Decisive, courageous, worldly, as if it were 'Also Sprach Zarathustra'? Not at all. In John Bell Young's hands, it is tender, beautiful, and supple. One thinks that it does not at all contradict his philosophical output, but widens our understanding of him."

Sofia Khentova, author of Shostakovich.
Izvestia, Moscow


 

 

"A pianist with a strong personality, Young has a brilliantly gigantic tone and rhythmic drive….The Scriabin pieces were extremely well-done, full of motoric vitality and romantic flavor. He has obviously taken their measure, musically and mystically."

Robert Newall, Maine Times

 

 

"A very convincing interpreter…truly a wonderful performance!"

Maria Griardi, Nuova Rivista Musicale Italiana


 

"John Bell Young's playing is first-rate."

David Ballingrud, The St. Petersburg Times (Florida)


 

"A performer in the grand old Russian romantic tradition, …{Young] is also a pianist of considerable substance, …he created an almost orchestral effect in Liszt's dazzling Ballade in B minor. His Scriabin selection included a remarkable performance of the Nocturne for the Left Hand in which he created a surprising level of volume and fluency with half the usual allotment of fingers. Then there was a spellbinding exotic Poeme, Op. 32 no. 1."

John Fleming, The St. Petersburg Times


 

"This recording of Nietzsche's music is very welcome...For collectors of musical esoterica...this is an invaluable issue."


"The finest to date have been the two discs by John Bell Young on Newport. These are superbly and sympathetically played. These recordings of Nietzsche`s music is very welcome... For collectors of musical esoterica... this is an invaluable issue. The finest to date have been the two discs by John Bell Young on Newport. These are superbly and sympathetically played... I understand that Sony has bought them. Sony should quickly reissue them...

Carl Bauman, The American Record Guide, 1994 and 1999


 

 

"John Bell Young's new CD, Prisms, treats its listeners to ten pieces by the idiosyncratic Scriabin, as well as several new works. The Two Poemes Op. 32 and the Sonata # 5 especially showcase Scriabin and Young at their best. The close miked Steinway captures the music with exciting clarity. Most riveting …is Young's performance of his Mahler transcription. To keep this ravishingly beautiful work cooking with the same intensity and drive as the original orchestration is a tribute to a most insightful pianist. This CD has truly lived up to its name, offering a recital filled with colorful works performed with great keyboard savvy.

Jim Edwards, Clavier
February 2000

 

"John Bell Young was the prominent soloist…[He] first played the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony no 5. This he did with elegant and relaxed skillfulness and with a feel for the work's symphonic stanzas. That it was also his own transcription was an achievement all by itself. It seems only natural, in light of Mr.Young's longtime devotion and study of Russian culture, that his Scriabin interpretations were so illuminating and idiomatic. Mr. Young opened the second half of the concert with a magnificent performance of Liebestod by Wagner, transcribed for piano solo by Franz Liszt….He offered a brilliant performance of Chopin's Barcarolle. And for the encore, who could resist Mr. Young in another work of Scriabin?

Lennart Wikstrom
Bohuslåningen
Gerlesborg, Sweden
June 22, 1999

 

"John Bell Young is a tough critic. Writing for Opera News and American Record Guide, he is quick to deflate performers, even very skilled ones, who simply go through the motions, who fail to search within themselves for a personal understanding of the music. The classical music world is full of such indifferent musicians and their cynical promoters, he often says, and to hell with the lot of them. But Young is a performer himself, a competition-winning pianist with a number of recordings to his credit and this new one, Prisms, just released. So how will he fare when we apply his own lofty standards to his work? Just fine, as it turns out. Young's playing here is thoughtful and sensitive, especially in the works of his favorite composer and musical inspiration, Alexander Scriabin….Another treat comes with Young's own transcription of the haunting Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No. 5, a gorgeous, sumptuous melody Mahler supposedly wrote with future wife Alma Schindler in mind…to Young's credit he makes the experience work with the piano….Grade: A

--David Ballingrud,:
The St. Petersburg Times
Florida
October 15, 1999

 

""A wonderful CD…it’s great!"

Brooke Anderson, about Enoch Arden in a televised interview with Michael York CNN Headline News


 

"A fine new CD..."

Anthony Tommasini, writing about Enoch Arden,the New York Times


 

 

"Gripping! Michael York's narration and voices in dialect are top-drawer artistry and bring the drama and environment, and the ambience of the Victorian era into such a realm that one is completely absorbed--transported back to that time, to live the experiences of the characters. John Bell Young's playing is sensitive and powerful... I have found it one of the most moving audio experiences I've encountered. The production is a gem. "

Hugh Downs


 

"While snow blanketed the city, two concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art over the weekend focused on the warm essence of melodrama. Enoch Arden occasionally emerges as vehicle for a star actor. On Friday it was Michael York, who has recorded the piece with the able young pianist John Bell Young, and is now taking it around with him as a kind of calling card... a wonderful job of bringing the poem to life."

Anne Midgette, the New York Times


 

"A stunning new recording - very different from any Enoch I’ve ever heard. A subtle and inward performance…a heck of a fine pianist...a bargain for a performance of this quality for a work of this stature…a terrific recording!"

Jim Svejda, KUSC, Los Angeles


 

"A passionate performance. York throws himself into Tennyson's melodrama, and his expertise with English accents deftly differentiates between the working class Enoch and the bourgeois miller who marries his wife...Young brings a great sense of conviction to the 66 minute performance...First class packaging, too..."

John Fleming, the St. Petersburg Times


 

 

"Here is one of the more peculiar rarities in the Strauss corpus, a sprawling accompaniment to Alfred Lord Tennyson's melodrama about a young man, presumably lost at sea, who returns home many years later to find his wife remarried to his childhood friend…Remarkably, two small labels are competing with new recordings of Enoch Arden at the same time, each with differing approaches…York's intimate, conversational telling of the tale works far better on a recording...…and Young's playing is freer in manner."

Richard D. Ginell, LA Times


 

"Already in the short, almost hurricane-like program before the intermission - with texts by Walt Whitman and John Masefield to the music by Skrjabin and Wagner - was it clear that this should be an evening where elemental force was wedded to the most sensual intimacy. The sheer breadth of expression in York’s recitation was fabulous, and his flexibility in setting tempos and phrasing an inspiration. Enoch Arden is an incredible story of pathos, dreamy melancholy, ardent romanticism and endless despair. But most impressive was York’s boyish passion in combination with John Bell Young’s brilliant pianism."

Martin Nystrom, Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm


 

 

"It is clear from the detail included in this production that it was a labor of love. Pianist John Bell Young was eager to record both the poem and the music Richard Strauss wrote specifically for it. He brought British actor Michael York on board and the two wrote essays for liner notes that nearly amount to a book. The entire poem is also included, as well as biographies of all involved and the history of the poem… if you are not acquainted with the story, with its contradictions and bitter ironies, then this passionate and quite beautiful production makes for the perfect introduction. York displays the crisp diction and precise pacing that keep him frequently employed as an audio book narrator. He approaches the material with the appropriate degree of warmth and vigor, but does so with great finesse, matching the spirit of the material without overstating the obvious. Strauss’s music, as presented by Young, is vital and undeniably dramatic."

Rochelle O'Gorman, The Boston Globe


 

"Enoch Arden is seldom performed, and the few recordings include one by pianists Glenn Gould and Claude Rains as narrator...English actor Michael York and American pianist John Bell Young have just recorded it in an expressive rendition that matches the dynamic contours of the music...York conveys an array of vocal colors with clarity and dramatic energy. Young captures the changing moods with rhythmic momentum and subtle changes as the text progresses.The chemistry between York and Young can be heard in the pensive opening measures, and it continues throughout... the piano intensity is beautifully balanced with the narrative. The charisma, attention to detail, and intimacy of this disk make it something to share with friends."

Leonne Lewis, Clavier Magazine


 

 

"My goodness, it is a wonderful performance...It brought tears to my eyes..."

Stephen Hough, pianist


 

"It is my pleasure to recommend to you pianist John Bell Young. I knew him for several years as a very sensitive and completely dedicated musician who has delved into some previously unexplored areas of music and tackled roads less traveled. His knowledge of music is extensive. He was endorsed by the Scriabin family and in general has an affinity with the Russian repertoire. He is also very well versed in the Baroque style. Any association with John Bell Young will be highly rewarding."

Vladimir Feltsman
Pianist, recording artist
Professor of Piano
SUNY Purchase
New York, 1994


 

"Let me say at once that I find your playing extremely accomplished and sensitive ... superb playing... Altogether, I think it is a wonderful achievement that you have recorded these works."


Sir Charles Mackerras

 

"I still find this disc [Prisms] the most satisfying and artistic piano recital ever recorded." [2007]

"You played my Old Familiar Air at a brighter tempo that brought out the humor of it better than I had heard it before. Your performance probably dented my humility slightly, because I sat there thinking, 'Hell, that's not bad!'"

Hugh Downs (2007 and 1997)
Television Broadcaster
Host and co-anchor of
ABC-TV's 20/20
New York, 1997


 

"John Bell Young is a fine pianist and an excellent and interesting musician. He also has extremely stimulating ideas on the theory of piano pedagogy."

Charles Rosen
Pianist, Recording Artist
Sony Classical,
Author "The Classical Style"
and "The Romantic Generation"
New York, 1996


 

"Having had a great many students, and a great many talented and professional students who have become artists, I can tell you that John Bell Young stands out as one of the most enthusiastic and creative musicians I have ever met. Each session has been an exciting encounter. The man has a myriad of ideas and has the pianistic equipment to show them to a great advantage. Both Shura Cherkassky and John Browning, for whom he has played, share my opinion. His project of bringing the world of Nietzsche through music to us is indeed unique and fascinating. I know that you will be happy to have supported the idea and the artist."

Constance Keene, 1990
Pianist, Recording Artist
Protone Records
Professor of Piano,
Manhattan School of Music
New York, 1990


 

"In this brave new world of pianistic obligatory democracy made of verifiably good (if not great) and accomplished (if not perfect) players, JOHN BELL YOUNG stands out as one of the unsung heroes of the end of this epoch. He is at once a pianist endowed with the rare gift of musical story-telling, a charmer with a rare understanding of the beauty and power of harmony, and a performer full of savoir-faire, genuine temperament and true love for his instrument"

Michel Block
Pianist, recording artist EMI, ProPiano Records
Professor of Piano, Indiana University



IN MEMORY OF MICHEL BLOCK (1937-2003) - A GREAT ARTIST, A GREAT FRIEND, A GREAT HEART...


 

 

"John Bell Young is both an expressive musician and a fine technician. He impresses his public by playing with beauty of tone, an assured manner and a sweeping rhythm as he progresses smoothly through a very demanding program…a recitalist of first caliber."

Abram Chasins
Pianist, composer
Author of Speaking of Pianists
And The Van Cliburn Legend

 

 

"Your disc is fabulous! I feel your intensity in every bar. The music of Nietzsche is especially interesting when you consider that it's composed by a 17 year old philosopher."

Dag Achatz
Pianist, Recording Artist
BIS, Melodiya, RCA,Columbia
Professor of Piano
Conservatoire de Geneve
Montreux, Switzerland 1992


 

"John Bell Young's appearances in our country have been unanimously praised by critics and colleagues. I remember well our joint, four hand performances in Riga (Latvia) and Moscow with warm feeling. He has given master classes in Moscow and St. Petersburg with great success, and is fond of teaching. Moreover, he possesses a rare quality to put his heart and soul into it. John Bell Young is not only a splendid pianist, but an artist as well. I hope that a broad and successful way in the art of music is awaiting him."

Margarita Fyodorova,
Pianist, Peoples Artists of the USSR
Melodiya Recording Artist
Professor of Piano
Moscow Conservatory
Moscow, 1996


 

"My wife and I listened to you with the greatest pleasure. One feels that Liszt is near to your heart, and that you understand his style. We are both looking forward to seeing you soon."

Ernst Levy, pianist
Recording artist,
Morges, Switzerland, 1973


 

"There is surely a need for a good biography of Scriabin, one that relates his music to his experiences with and ideas about mysticism; and I am persuaded by John Bell Young's proposal that such a study can be written only by someone intimately familiar with the music - and that he himself might just be the one to do it. As far I know, none of the people in the field of Russian history (of that period) is sufficiently familiar with the music, nor does any other performer of the music has the requisite intellectual and linguistic background. Scriabin is a figure who has been underestimated whose quirkily eclectic personal philosophy has prevented his being taken seriously as a harmonic innovator and an artist in the grand style. Mr. Young's approach strikes me as sensible, insofar as he has no intention of arguing that a coherent or profound philosophy is to be found in Scriabin's writings, but will rather concentrate on enhancing our understanding of his subject's musical achievement by showing its connections with Scriabin's ideas and experiences. The bibliography demonstrates a thorough acquaintance with the relevant literature, and Mr. Young's fluency in Russian and his connections with relevant persons and institutions in Russia surely qualify him uniquely for this project."

Graham Parkes
Author Composing Nietzsche
Professor of Philosophy
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts 1994


 

"In sending me your CD recording and the accompanying letters you have given me great pleasure. Most particularly because the music is interpreted with sensitivity and technical perfection. This is not to be taken for granted, since these compositions particularly those from the youthful period - were essentially the product of improvisations, and this attribute must be reproduced, "empathized" with, by the performer. This seems to me to have succeeded."

Curt Paul Janz
Doctor of Philosophy, honoris causa
Author of Nietzsche
Muttenz bei Basel, Switzerland 1992




"I am writing in support of the Nietzsche Music Project, a cultural enterprise of exceptional distinction. The Project is headed by a remarkable musician - the pianist John Bell Young. He is a striking personality, the very epitome of American brilliance, originality, energy and determination. I think the enterprises are altogether worthy. The project is bent on rescuing from virtual oblivion the music composed by men and women of letters. The part of the project dealing with the recovery of Nietzsche's music has been splendidly successful - witness John Bell Young's first recording on CD. Nietzsche's music, which until now had come down to us in unplayable obscurity - without indications as to phrasing and fingering and dynamics - has been re-created (more than performed!) by John Bell Young. I have heard this recording literally dozens of times. It is no exaggeration to say of Nietzsche, in light of the unremitting attention he has been receiving inside and outside of American universities, that (with only Hegel and Marx as vanishing rivals) he is the most important thinker of the modern western tradition. To have this sort of (musical) access - immediate, passionate - to Nietzsche's spirit as well as to the cultural environment in which he composed and played his music is a small miracle, of immense interest to scholars, students and laypeople alike. It will be an obvious service to make Nietzsche's onw reflections on music accessible to his now large listening audience…John Bell Young's reflection on the history and meaning of Nietzsche's musical preoccupations are fascinating and imaginative. I am beginning to know Mr. Young well; he is, I repeat a young man of brilliance, character and enterprise and altogether worthy of encouragement. I support the Nietzsche Music Project whole-heartedly."

Stanley Corngold
Professor of German and Comparative Literature
Princeton University
Princeton, New Jersey 1992


 

"Pianist takes an unusual musical journey: to the Himalayas with Hugh Downs, Tolstoi and Scriabin.
After making his two critically acclaimed recordings of the little known musical compositions of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, you'd think that pianist John Bell Young would have looked forward to putting his stamp on more traditional fare, such as Chopin or Liszt. Not on your life. With the immanent release of Prisms, his new recording on the Americus label, Young once again offers recording premieres of music by celebrated literary and media figures, including Hugh Downs. Widely recognized for his authoritative interpretations of the music of Alexander Scriabin, and endorsed by the composer's daughters, Young also devotes half the disc to the more mainstream works of that romantic Russian mystic. "I guess I just can't resist the thrill of the hunt; I'm a musical archivist at heart," says Young, who is also a prominent critic for several publications, including The American Record Guide and Opera News. "There's a whole world of music out there that represents the contributions of extraordinary individuals. Some of these people are famous in other professions, but that does nothing to compromise their prismatic imaginations, which seem to operate on overtime". With a little help from their mutual friend, the late American folksinger Bill Crofut, Young got in touch with Hugh Downs, whose talents extend well beyond his fame as a television personality. Entrusting him with his scores, Downs gave Young the green light to perform his music in concert in the US and Russia. Eventually a collaboration developed in which Downs lectured and Young performed. "My musical output has been reprehensibly small as I got busier in broadcasting over the years," confesses Downs. "Of course it's also overwhelmingly likely that I will never be able to do what Bach and Beethoven did!" Young disagrees. "In spite of his genuine modesty, Hugh's erudition in so many areas continually astonishes his friends and colleagues. He has been low key about his musical gifts, which no one should confuse with an album of folk songs he sang on an Epic Records release in 1959! I'm convinced that, had he cultivated them, he could have become a major composer. Still, what he has given us is in this piano piece, amusingly entitled An Old Familiar Air Which Has Its Own Tuxedo and will Travel is representative of his wit, charm and logic." Music by the distinguished concert pianist Michel Block fills out the album. "His suite Un Beau Jour is a bundle of poetry and sunlight; its memorable and poignant melodies evoke something between Poulenc and Marlene Dietrich, " says Young. A real curiosity is a miniature waltz by Leo Tolstoi - yes, the Tolstoi of War and Peace fame. "It's brief and hilarious. But there's no proof he wrote it; it has only been attributed to him." Young's own transcription of Mahler's touching Adagietto from his fifth symphony will reacquaint the general public with a piece that gained popularity in Visconti's classic film, Death in Venice. Perhaps the most remarkable dimension of the CD is what it represents for Russian and musical culture. Scriabin's dying wish was to have his never completed final work, the ceremonial Mysterium performed in the clouds, mountains and rarified air of the Himalayas. He even bought a plot of land there to stage it, but in 1912 that was impossible. Together with the noted alpine climber Carlos Buhler, Young will posthumously satisfy Scriabin's wish with an unusual gesture.Buhler, who in August 1999 leads a team to scale the treacherous Himalayan Mount Melungtse, will take Young's CD along with him and broadcast it from the summit. Buhler's video and audio journal of the event will later go online, accompanied by the sounds of Scriabin.
In recognition of Hugh Downs' longtime commitment to UNICEF, and in honor of his position as Chairman Emeritus of the US Committee for UNICEF, Americus Records will donate a portion from the sale of each CD to that organization. For more information, call Americus at 202-237-2722 or visit its website at http://www.americuscd.com"

Washington, D.C.
Washington, August 1, 1999

 

An article from US News and World Report, September 11 - 2000


(click to enlarge)

 





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