Press & Reviews
"It takes courage for a pianist to program a concert of works by a single composer. Double—maybe triple—that courage when the composer is Federico Mompou, a fascinating if obscure Spaniard whose austere, inward-looking works offer little in the way of crowd-pleasing virtuosity...But, as pianist Haskell Small showed in an unusual recital Sunday at the Phillips Collection, Mompou's music is worth attention...Not every pianist has the temperament or the insight to play Mompou well, but Small had clearly internalized the work and brought it off with exceptional gravity and focus. Each movement had a life and character of its own—from Satie-like translucence to almost frightening desolation—while connecting to the others with natural grace. High marks to Small on courage alone, even higher for a riveting performance."
"Haskell Small is one of the most interesting musicians in Washington. He is a pianist who has been (rightly) praised by England's Musical Times for his 'dazzlingly prodigious technique' and a composer who manages to pursue new ideas while remaining approachable."
"One should remember his name (Haskell Small) as he belongs to that diminishing group of pianists with whose playing one can hardly find any fault. From the first chords onwards he succeeds in creating that state- in reality so difficult to achieve- but which appears to be effortless, of just sitting there and 'only' listening to music."
"The meditative and ever more mystic atmosphere prevails throughout most of Música Callada and in the end the effect becomes almost hypnotic [...] I am prepared to follow Haskell Small through these twenty-eight stations again, knowing that he probably is the living guide who knows this destination better than anyone and the Blüthner piano seems the perfect vehicle for the journey."
"Mr. Small is a marvelous interpreter of Mompou's music paying close attention to the subtle shadings and colors and the harmonic beauty of the score. He gives the music the necessary space and has the committed connection with the music that is so much a part of approaching Mompou. Federico Mompou may not be considered a "great" composer but his is a very individual voice that leaves us (hopefully) in thoughtful contemplation. Mr. Small has certainly achieved that end for me with an unforgettable performance where it almost seems that time stands still."
"Technical prowess became poetry. Small wove a spell...sheer musicality...each note a liquid jewel."
"Haskell Small played the solo part in Beethoven's FANTASY for piano, chorus and orchestra with bold dispatch."
"GERSHWIN IN BLACK AND WHITE (Centaur CRC 2174) yields some fascinatingly 'inauthentic' Gershwin. Acting on his own frustration that the composer left no full-scale works for solo piano, pianist Haskell Small has made his own solo-piano 'transcription' (read: version) of the CONCERTO IN F and adapted William Daly's transcription of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. Both his versions and his performances ring with conviction and warrent the places they're sure to assume in solo pianists' repertoires. The CD includes a sensitive performance of LULLABY in Alicia Zizzo's arrangement, whose public premiere Small played at New York's Town Hall on April 10, 1992."
"First, Small has Gershwin's pianistic bravura down pat. Second, he understands the style of the composer. And most important, he knows the limits of the piano as an orchestral instrument. Small layered his sound with all the aplomb of the original, seasoning it with an almost Lisztian sparkle."
"Small possesses an intuitive tonal sense and a tremendous capability to modulate the touch. With only ten fingers he displayed a wealth of images."
"Small has a rich imagination as a composer and an assured mastery of forms. Highly original without being self-consciously modernistic, this music has a sense of traditional structures and values without losing sight of its own era; it is inventive and accessible."
"Reccomended as that special treat, good new music well played." (Northeastern CD of works of Haskell Small)
"Pianist is Refreshing (headline)... The entire performance was clean and full of subtleties."
"Small's reading of these felicitous piano themes was exquisite." (Schubert's SONATA IN A MAJOR, D. 959)
"Small audibly and gratifyingly gave his all." (Shostakovich's PIANO CONCERTO NO 2).
"Disarmingly direct and totally charming." (Small's SHORT STORY)
"Haskell Small is the sort of pianist that can take the music of Scarlatti or Mussorgsky, music that many pianists smother in stylistic kindness, and get right to its essence. He does this with fine technique backed with surprising strength, a sense of dramatic pacing, and a sure feeling for the integrity of the music."
"Perhaps the surest way for a composer to bring his music to the public is to play it himself. Haskell Small is good enough a pianist to do just that, and Monday night in Alice Tully Hall he served as soloist, accompanist and chamber player in a number of his own pieces. The French style of 60 years ago permeates Mr. Small's music, but his particular combination of atmospheric sonorities, satire and whimsy speaks a wider, more 'liberated' harmonic language than either Debussy or Ravel."
"Haskell Small's 12 SNIPPETS (each 10 seconds long) for flute, clarinet, cello and piano revealed how much wit one can pack within very circumscribed borders."
"The world premiere of D.C. composer Haskell Small's THE SECULAR MASQUE, commissioned by the National Choral Foundation, was a major event... The composer was at the piano, guaranteeing an authentic interpretation. It is an impressive and effective work, the more so for being compressed into a span of merely 12 minutes. The large audience at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall responded enthusiastically."
"This brief work (the Saint-Saens CAPRICE-WALTZ, op. 76 for piano and strings) is light and playful, qualities which Small captured seemingly with little effort. The sparkling ending was so charming that the audience actually giggled before applauding."
"The story is delightfully reflected in the music... "Small is an exquisite orchestrator." (Premiere of Small's FANTASY OF THE RED-EYED CREATURE with the Mt. Vernon Orchestra)
"Everything he touches turns to pianistic gold."
"Absolutely stunning" (Children's CD featuring Poulenc's THE STORY OF BABAR)
"Delectable little bon-bons" (CD including Small's 12 SNIPPETS)
"The music so perfectly curls itself around these titles (Why?, So What?, Are You Sure?, How Did We Come to Be?, Oh, Really?), says its piece and then stops, that it left the audience chuckling" (Small's REALLY? AN ORCHESTRAL SUITE)
"All these works (SYMPHONY FOR SOLO PIANO CD on Albany label) are consummately pianistic and all abound in expressive content...Highly recommended."
"Small's SYMPHONY FOR SOLO PIANO is a serious and substantial composition that deserves a permanent place in the keyboard repertory... "The Symphony is remarkably all-of-a-piece. One inevitably had the sense that Small knew where he was going and exactly how to get there. He was never shy about employing dissonance, yet it seemed only one more element in the vast musical cosmos at his command."
"gloriously played, pedal-free, birdsongy Scarlatti."
"Lullaby of War is a work in rhythmic contrast, with sadness and despair in tonalities fusing with searing recitations of authentic poetry of war...Lullaby of War should be heard more often, for the listener to focus again and again on the fascinating, fresh details, and for the community at large to emotionally relate to the ravages of war, one so logistically distant, yet so psychically present in today's culture."
From the World Premiere performance of Renoir's Feast - "Small's idiom includes a comfortable mix of impressionistic color, jazz and blues inflection, whiffs of Stephen Foster and a sense of improvisatory freedom. Small's personalities are as muted as Renoir's softened outlines. The people he portrays are good friends who share many characteristics, and so the personalities are drawn subtly ... with a sense of French understatement."
"Small's reading of the Goldberg (Variation)s sounds beautiful... The great assets of Small's own pianism - among them, unerring taste and clarity - serve the music very well."
"25 Preludes - Highly interesting and varied music. It would be easy to say that these pieces are either other-worldly with notes evaporating into the universe or they are jazz-like with some ragtime and boogie-woogie elements. However, Small often blends these features together in the same variation. I have listened to this work many times, and its allure has not lost its shine in the least."