Christopher Atzinger counts Robert McDonald and Anton Nel among his several teachers, and he holds a Doctor of Musical Performance degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. The present debut recital was taped 17-18 January 2005 in Maryland. After a solid presentation of the Bach G-sharp Minor Prelude and Fugue from WTC I, Atzinger instigates a serious, measured realization of Beethoven’s A Major Sonata, in which the composer builds up melodic fragments in the tonic and in E Major. The aggressive march in F Major has Atzinger throwing sparks, glitter, and occasional thunderbolts. Typical of Beethoven’s last period, the classical procedures emerge in cogent, compressed form, rife with cyclic allusions to the first movement as well as contrapuntally punishing passages of no small virtuosity.
The Barber Sonata (1950) seems to be an Atzinger calling-card, with its high-flown, percussive lyricism. Atzinger bestows upon the opening Allegro energico the same taut, hard-edged patina we know from the Horowitz and Browning versions of this piece. The second movement Scherzo might be Barber’s equivalent of a Liszt etude, according to Atzinger’s playful fingers. Some of the figures remind me of Copland’s music for The Red Pony. The Adagio brings out Barber’s concession to “modernism” and Schoenberg, but it retains a bluesy, American character. The fugal last movement has Atzinger in molten form, providing ardent, scintillating evidence of his technical and sympathetic commitment to this music.
Gregory Fritze is a pedagogue who composed his sonata as a composition study-piece for his own students. The procedures of the first movement are eminently classical and motivically developed, the impulses modal and somewhat reminiscent of Moussorgsky. The second movement retains a tight leash on its opening three chords; but it also reaches into the guts of the keyboard in the manner of Cowell’s The Banshee. Moody and effective, a bit like Ligeti, the music sounds like a score to a suspense or occult film. The Bartok-like final movement rondo pushes hard, alternating pounding block chords with skittish figures that canter at weird angles. The extended coda takes a page from Beethoven and brings back earlier motives from prior movements.
— Gary Lemco