The views from a keyboard
Alex Shapiro
Adam Marks
Catalog Number: 
#1 041
new classical

Friday Harbor, WA

Release Date: 
Aug 28, 2020
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

From a fiery, unexpectedly uplifting elegy, to a somber and despairing childhood flashback;

From the bleakness of the Mexican desert, to the lilt of kelp strands along the San Juan Island shoreline;

From homages to R. Schumann and L.V. Beethoven, to affirmations of the fragile power of healing herbs;

From lyrical angularity, to frenzied comedy.

This is ARCANA; a complete collection of solo piano works – spanning two decades – by Alex Shapiro. Prompted by the publication of a 2015 doctoral dissertation on her work, The Keyboard Works of Alex Shapiro, she realized she “wanted to create a unified collection of definitive performances of these very personal offerings.” The choice of Adam Marks to play them was a natural fit, as he relates:

“To record someone’s complete catalog for piano is to live with their history—their ups and downs—and to listen to the world through their ears... …at the root of all of Alex’s works is her stunning relationship to the elements. She’s surrounded by water at home, and connected to the earth yet constantly soaring above the clouds in her travels.”

Shapiro writes: “Two of the works on this album—the Piano Suite and the Sonata—represent a pivotal time in my career, when in my later 30s after scoring a film with a chamber orchestra, I realized that my passion had strayed from the commercial media jobs that had been my livelihood for the previous fifteen years, and had made a beeline toward a love of composing chamber music. The seeds of the themes in these two works were written when I was a 19-year-old composition student at Manhattan School of Music. Nearly two decades later I pulled the yellowed manuscripts from a long-forgotten envelope, placed them on my piano desk to play through, cringed at all the poorly written passages and… noticed a few decent spots. Like a happy little dung beetle coveting used material that’s bound to be good for something, I rolled my old ideas into fresh versions of the music, using creative tools acquired from life experience that youth can’t provide. These were among the first handful of pieces which launched my gratifying life in the concert music world.”

The past twenty years have seen Shapiro’s voice broaden from solo and chamber works to those for large ensembles, and from purely acoustic pieces to works that seamlessly meld complex digital audio tracks with soloists, choir, orchestra, and symphonic wind band. At a moment when Alex is probably best known for her many unusual and significant contributions to the other end of the sonic spectrum – the electroacoustic wind band world – here is ARCANA: a world of intimacy, small scale with big emotion, and a return to the roots.

Praised as an “excellent pianist” with “titanic force” (New York Times), Adam Marks is an active soloist, collaborator, music director, curator, and educator based in NYC. Adam serves as the founding co-director of Artists at Albatross Reach, an arts residency/incubator in Gualala, California. As half of Albatross (his duo with vocalist Jennifer Beattie), he has been an Artist-In-Residence with the Yale College Department of Music Composers’ Seminar since 2006. He has held faculty positions at Carthage College and NYU, and was a founding faculty member of both New Music On The Point and the Fresh Inc festival. Adam proudly plays Yamaha pianos. 

Arcana Produced by Alex Shapiro



"I can’t imagine any fan of living new/concert music not being swept away by these widely ranging pieces ranging across two decades, more introspective than virtuosic." [FULL ARTICLE]


"Marks’ musicianship is in glorious display here: not only is this moto perpetuo executed with utmost crispness, but each layer of voicing can be clearly heard. This disc is a triumph and I highly recommend spending time with the work of these two artists." [FULL ARTICLE] Stephanie Ann Boyd