Clipper Erickson — piano
I became acquainted with Scott's music in 2003 through Bill Marsh of the Delius Society in Philadelphia. He suggested I record the second piano sonata and other short pieces, which I was immediately taken with, particularly the sonata. After having to deal with missing pages and obvious errors in the print-on-demand edition (the score had been long out of print), I loved performing this piece with it's fascinating blend of Debussy, Scriabin and Berg, combined with Scott's own unique sense of contemplation and exaltation. Even with the improvisatory feeling of the music, its structure makes a most convincing narrative. I was encouraged to master the considerable difficulties by the wonderful colors and effectiveness of the piano writing. It was also striking to me that this uplifting piece was written in the 1930's, when so much music was dark and sometimes misogynist. I've much enjoyed playing this and even audiences that are afraid of 20th century music enjoy it also.
Along with that I recorded the Zoo pieces and Carillon. Zoo especially impressed me - I admire composers that can write music for children that retains their unique style and personality.
I'm usually drawn to music that uses the sound of the piano in a unique way. I love the colors, the juxtaposition of light and shadow, and the way Scott sequences these. The sound of bells and their multi-hued upper harmonics seem to be a constant presence. The mystical sound of bells crosses so many cultures.
When Andrew suggested we do the first version of the first violin sonata it was a daunting project. The first time we did it (at the University of Birmingham when I was in the midst of writing my Dett dissertation) I had to make a cut in the enormous piano cadenza that closes the piece. Listening to the second movement still puts me in an ecstatic trance. I much prefer it to the revised version, which took many beautiful things out, like the magical distant bell peals.
It amazes me how much Scott's reputation was eclipsed in the mid-20th century. How could one of the leading British composers of the early century write a violin sonata in 1956 that would languish for 57 years until Andrew and I premiered it in 2013? I suppose it's a combination of how violently musical taste changed after the first world war and how long he lived. He must have been quite brave (or stubborn) to keep writing even as he was ignored.
Clipper Erickson made his debut as a soloist with the Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra at age nineteen in Los Angeles. After studies at The Juilliard School, Yale University, and Indiana University with the renowned British pianist John Ogdon, his interpretations began earning prizes at international competitions including the Busoni, William Kapell, and the American Pianists Association. He has performed as a soloist with orchestras and in recitals in some of the most famous concert venues in the world, including the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.
In addition to his powerful renditions of the great classical repertoire, Clipper’s interpretations of American music from past and present have launched a series of CD releases that have received considerable critical acclaim and have often been featured on radio stations throughout the United States. He recently completed his dissertation for Temple University on the piano music of African-American composer Nathaniel Dett, while working with Alexander Fiorillo, a pupil of Vladimir Horowitz.
Erickson is active in premiering new piano works written for him, most recently Una Carta de Buenos Aires by Richard Brodhead, which he first performed at the University of Birmingham, UK. In 2013, the NEOS label of Munich released Antarctic Convergence, featuring Erickson’s solo piano performances of music by Laurie Altman.
Through his work as a roster member of Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour and earlier in the Xerox Pianist Program of Affiliate Artists, he has performed for all types of community groups, always engaging audiences with illuminating commentary on his program selections. An important part of his mission is encouraging the love of music through commitment to education, performances in schools, master classes, and the inspiration of future generations of musicians. He currently teaches at Westminster Conservatory in Princeton and Temple University in Philadelphia.