Melville's Dozen

Melville's Dozen

Fresh baked
Alex Freeman
Augusta Read Thomas
Carter Pann
Doug Opel
Gabriela Lena Frank
Judith Lang Zaimont
Kevin Beavers
Marc Mellits
Mark Olivieri
Phil Fried
Phillip Rhodes
Stacy Garrop
Stephen Paulus
Nicola Melville
Catalog Number: 
new classical

Auckland, New Zealand

Release Date: 
Aug 12, 2008
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Pianist Nicola Melville caught the bug of working with living composers while she was still a student in New Zealand. You get a different feel when no-one else has ever performed a work and you can email the composer to ask questions about interpretations; it certainly beats the umpteenth performance of an old warhorse.

Years and a hemisphere later, arriving in Northfield, Minnesota, Melville wanted to share that experience with her students at Carleton College. Thus was born the idea to commission some of today’s hottest com- posers to write according to her brief: a short piece, in a recognizable style of the Americas, that would be approachable to play for young, advanced-level students.

With influences drawn from styles of the Americas such as funk, jazz, blues, rock, tango, Peruvian, and Appalachian folk, the resulting pieces are engaging, sophisticated, and challenging. The composers range from Pulitzer Prize-nominated Augusta Read Thomas to young guns Marc Mellits, Carter Pann and Gabby Frank. The dynamic voice of each of the thirteen com- posers (bakers and pianists both throw in an extra one for free) speaks in a unique and compelling way throughout the CD.

“I think it is crucial that the experience of playing works by serious American composers is available to a broader range of young pianists, and that these pianists are excited and challenged by the music that they are learning and performing.”

— Nicola Melville 



The result, simply in the variety of the restrained pieces in the cd , is indescribable general with the following limits: surprising, swarming, amusing, uncontrollable, vital, exciting, like sometimes the current life, left aside the problems that torment every period, is able to just be.

by Filippo Focosi


Audition Nicola Melville is a New Zealand native who has worked in the U.S. since 1990. She began including contemporary works by living composers in her programs in New Zealand, and her affinity for contemporary music is shown in this collection by 13 living American composers. As the titles will probably attest, there is a huge variety of approaches to be heard here. There are homages to well-known composers, influences of rock, folk and jazz, musical humor, and unexpected combinations of genres. But you won’t find much serialism or minimalism. The opening track can be described as a piece of haunted salon music. Garrop’s short tango honors the great Argentine tango singer Carlos Gardel. Mark Olivieri’s triptych of homages honors Copland, Takemitsu and James Brown respectively. Gabriel Frank drew in her piano piece from several different South American guitar-playing genres. Doug Opel’s compositional language is a mix of dark and humorous, controlled and chaotic, classical and contemporary. The second of his little preludes portrays gospel music and the third is titled “Eine Kinda Bachmusik.” I think my favorite of the collection is the longest track, at 6 1/2 minutes, Kevin Beavers’ Sourpuss. He divides it into five tableaux which are variously colored by influences of ragtime, blues, Thelonious Monk and Frank Sinatra. Some of it sounds like lonely noodling at the keyboard, but things finish up with a rousing little drunk dance number.

by John Sunier