Eliza Garth

the enchanted piano

Widely regarded as an artist with a passionate voice and an adventurous spirit, pianist ELIZA GARTH has championed some of the most demanding works in the repertoire. Among these are the complete solo piano works of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Donald Martino, which she has recorded on two nationally acclaimed CDs for the Centaur label.

A graduate of the Juilliard School, Ms. Garth is a founding member of the Chamber Players of the League of Composers/ISCM in New York City, and is in frequent demand as a guest artist. She is a member of the music faculty at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

She has been recognized twice by the Maryland State Arts Council with the Individual Artist Award, most recently in 2010 for her performance of John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes.

Recording Reviews

TOUR DE FORCE: Albany Records Troy1714 new American virtuoso works for solo piano, by Sheree Clement and Perry Goldstein


This album of piano works—Preludes by Sheree Clement and Of Points Fixed and Fluid by Perry Goldstein—presents a cornucopia of sounds and feelings brought to expert, breathing life by pianist Eliza Garth. Clement’s piano preludes have titles like ‘Gently, Steadily’ and ‘Dramatically’ along with ‘Moderato’ and ‘Allegro’. Clement’s writing is direct, almost melod- ic, with touches of Gershwin as she executes an idea or parses a technique in each of these short movements. The seed at the heart of each of these movements (two dominant 7th chords in the first prelude, thirds in the 11th prelude) dictates its harmonic and tonal cen- ters, and following these free-flowing thoughts as they flourish from seeds into gestural vines is an intellectual adventure. Goldstein’s Of Points Fixed and Fluid is a 15-minute piece that begins with a theme that rumbles in the bass, full of nervous energy that suddenly finds itself in a beautiful plateau of static, soft bell-like gestures in the higher register of the piano. The piece vacillates between the two, exploring each space before revisiting the other. It’s a sonata that is not a sonata but just as satisfying. Garth’s preternatural sense of timing is on grand display in this piece: she’s given each energetic area the pace it needs to haunt and mesmerize her audience. 

TEXTURA [Ontario, Canada]: "Garth's command of dynamics impresses, specifically the deftness with which she alternates between a delicate hush and forceful declamation. One need look no further than her handling of Clement's iconoclastic tenth prelude as an example, but evidence of her bravura playing is present throughout. Tour de Force turns out to be an applicable title on multiple levels as opposed to one only."

Qonstage [New York}: "This hero’s quest of virtuosity dazzles with the knowledge that it takes a pianist of deep skill and experience to wrest the nuanced phrases from a work of great breadth.  Garth’s phrasing, nuance, dynamic expertise, and virtuosity answer the challenges posed by each of these composers..."

KATHODIK [Italy]: "As the title of this newest release by Albany Records promises, it is a real tour de force [for] the bravissima American pianist Eliza Garth...Eliza Garth moves at ease in such diverse expressive worlds, which demonstrate the vitality of contemporary music, especially American, for piano."


FANFARE MAGAZINE: “The numerous shadings [in David Froom’s Piano Sonata] are made stunningly clear by Eliza Garth’s fluent and expressive performance … These performances all have the high sheen and scrupulous accuracy of the best new music playing in New York.”



THE NEW YORK TIMES: [On April 17, 1998, the New York Times published a survey of its classical music critics, in which each was asked to name his five favorite recordings of post-World War II music. Among those listed by critic Anthony Tommasini was Eliza Garth’s recording of Donald Martino’s Fantasies and Impromptus (Centaur #2173), with the following comment.]

“…[Some works] hook me, thrill me, baffle me, lure me back again and again but enticingly keep some of their secrets to themselves … Donald Martino, whose music is steeped in the 12-tone idiom, has written some dauntingly complex pieces. But I can’t imagine that his Fantasies and Impromptus, a 30 minute piano work from 1981, would fail to make an impact on any open-minded listener. The music’s zigzagging lines, thick yet lucid counterpoint, jittery rhythms and rhapsodic excursions are fashioned into what could be a 1980’s version of Schumann’s Kreisleriana. Eliza Garth’s recording is excellent.”

Her performance, as recorded here, may become one against which other performances will come to be measured.
— American Music

THE BOSTON GLOBE: “This disc is the second volume of Eliza Garth’s survey of the complete piano music, and chamber music involving piano, by Donald Martino, who has written more music, and more significant music for piano, than most other contemporary composers. The music covers almost all of Martino’s career. All of the music is expertly and fastidiously worked, even the derivative pieces like the Bartokian Violin Sonata, delivered in a knockout performance by Rolf Schulte and Garth. The best of the music, in the Preludes, is personal, original, evocative, elusive, wonderfully imagined for the instrument, and dead sure of itself. Martino has come in for a lot of criticism for holding fast to the dodecaphonic faith, but this is his native language … Martino is proving that there is still a lot of music to be written using serial techniques. All three performers are unusually gifted and dedicated … Garth is a pianist who boasts an exceptional warmth, beauty of sound, and vocality of phrasing – qualities well matched to this music.

AMERICAN MUSIC: “Eliza Garth has built an impressive career …  Her interpretation of Pianississimo has played no small part in building her reputation, and the piano discography is enriched by this recording. Her performance, as recorded here, may become one against which other performances will come to be measured.”

It has been called ‘unplayable’ by more than one pianist, but in this remarkable recording Eliza Garth demonstrates that it can be mastered
— The Washington Post

THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Using the instrument of Chopin and Liszt, Fantasies and Impromptus creates a powerful late 20th-century voice … The use of the instrument is exquisite: at turns shiny, mysterious, brutal and sensuous. Mr. Martino, one of this country’s authentic musical voices, speaks on a plane above musical politics as usual … Eliza Garth, who is splendid in the Fantasies and Impromptus, conquers even greater virtuoso problems in Pianississimo …”

THE BOSTON PHOENIX: “The new Centaur Records disc of piano music by Donald Martino is something rare — an album of new music meant for grown-ups, music that can be heard and enjoyed on various levels. This compositional richness has made Martino, now 63, something of a composer’s composer, but it makes him ripe for discovery by a wider audience. Not much of his impressive output is available on CD … So this release would be important if only to help fill a gap in the discography of American music.  Fortunately, Eliza Garth’s graceful and lucid performances make it a disc to treasure … In Pianississimo, Martino adapts [a] glittering and highly mannered style to a Lisztian sense of drama and scope. The notorious difficulty of Pianississimois probably more conceptual than technical — it’s remarkable how spare the piece is, how much is said with few notes. At least in Garth’s elegant reading, the music sings through the spaces in the texture … In the 1981 Fantasies and Impromptus, Martino returns to a more traditionally romantic conception of the piano, complete with arpeggiation and long-lined melody … [This work] has been steadily making its way into the pianistic repertory — Garth’s fine reading should help accelerate that process … [Martino] gives a somewhat Germanic, Schoenbergian cast to the otherwise Chopinesque textures of the Fantasies and Impromptus while generating unexpected flowerings of both lyricism and rhetoric … Martino’s 1982 Suite in Old Form is an affectionate tribute to Bach’s French Suites, seen through a scrim of romantic figuration and perhaps a hint of Bill Evans-style jazz piano. Garth’s lovely touch with this winning suite makes me eager to hear her Chopin (not that the bins need another Chopin disc — this is exactly the CD we do need). Until the orchestras and record companies catch up with Martino, Garth’s finely drawn portrait is the best available introduction to the work of this multi-faceted composer.”

Eliza Garth, who is splendid in the Fantasies and Impromptus, conquers even greater virtuoso problems in Pianississimo
— The New York Times

FANFARE MAGAZINE: “Full of grand gestures and flourishes as well as pointillistic passages, [Fantasies and Impromptus] finds blossoms of Romantic repose amid the thorny atonality. Pianist Eliza Garth stresses the consistent lyricism of the score, catching, for example, the Schubertian tenderness of the third impromptu (with its waltz echoes and delicate filigree) and able to illuminate the merest whisper of melody, as in the ‘nachtmusic’ of the middle fantasy … Pianississimo is taxing but keenly concentrated; that is difficulties arise in terms of uncommon intervals and huge register leaps, dips inside the piano to modify certain pitches, and rhythmic complexities, but the biggest challenge is to keep the line from breaking, especially in those moments when the sparse introductory material returns to interrupt the music’s dramatic progress. Garth is quite able to minimalize the technical difficulties and, in highlighting the wit and sustaining the beautifully extended atonal melodic writing, finds much poetry in the score …”

THE WASHINGTON POST: “In the composer’s words, ‘Pianississimo, with its extremes of volume, tempo, gesture and expression, attempts to extend in every way the virtuoso tradition of the preceding century.’ It has been called ‘unplayable’ by more than one pianist, but in this remarkable recording Eliza Garth demonstrates that it can be mastered …”

THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: “This is a rewarding introduction to [Donald Martino’s solo piano music] … substantial and compelling.”

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