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Published: Friday, 1/9/2004

Pianist features American music


Don't try to tell Greg Kostraba that American composers don't measure up to their counterparts across the Atlantic.

"There tends to be a mindset that European composers are somehow better than American composers, but I firmly don't believe that," says the pianist and WGTE-FM (91.3) radio host, who will focus on the breadth of American music when he performs Sunday in the Toledo Museum of Art.

"This music is worthy of serious consideration," Kostraba says. "Americans have brought so much to the table since the 1920s when Copland and others broke away from the European Romantic tradition."

Sunday's concert explores "what has happened since then, from William Grant Still to the 1990s," Kostraba, 37, says.

Still is one of three Americans featured in a concert that includes works by Robert Muczynski and Ypsilanti, Mich.-based Anthony Iannaccone, as well as Chopin and Debussy.

Still's soaring "3 Visions" from 1936 is a programmatic three-movement work built on religious themes. One actually hears the horse rear up in "Dark Horsemen," the work's opening movement, Kostraba says.

He calls the slow ethereal "Summerland" movement "the most beautiful music of the 20th century."

The recital focuses on contrasts. Iannaccone's brief but thorny "Sarabande" is "music for a rainy day, slow and somber, mellow in a intense sort way," Kostraba says.

He performs two works of Muczynski, a set of preludes from the 1950s and "Desperate Measures," a set of variations written in 1995 and based on a theme by Paganini.

Kostraba is best known as host of WGTE-FM's Afternoon Classics, FM 91 In Concert, and Live From FM 91! He also serves on the University of Toledo piano faculty. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Muczynski's music.

"I am interested in promoting American music and composers," Kostraba says.

Pianist Greg Kostraba performs a free concert at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Great Gallery of the Toledo Museum of Art. Information: 419-255-8000.

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