Praised by the New York Times for his “Lisztian thunder and deft fluidity," and the San Francisco Chronicle as “ferociously virtuosic,” pianist Paul Barnes has electrified audiences with his intensely expressive playing and cutting-edge programming. He has been featured seven times on APM’s Performance Today , on the cover of Clavier Magazine, and his recordings are streamed worldwide.
Celebrating his twenty-four-year collaboration with Philip Glass, Barnes commissioned and gave the world premiere performance of Glass's Piano Quintet "Annunciation." The work is Glass's first piano quintet and first work based on Greek Orthodox chant. In a Journal Star interview, Glass stated: "You have a world-class pianist in Paul Barnes. He's a pure piano virtuoso." The Journal Star described the world premiere as "meditative...striking...touchingly played by Barnes and the quintet, 'Annunciation' is a romantic, late-period Glass masterwork." Fred Child, host of APR's Performance Today was present for the premiere and wrote: "Pianist Paul Barnes put together and performed a thrilling evening of music!" Child's interview with Barnes and Glass and the world premiere performance of the quintet was featured twice on Performance Today. The New York premiere took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where New York Classical Review called the quintet a "fascinating mosaic of Glass's late style...with a warm inner expression that seemed to echo Brahms." PBS NewsHour recently featured a Nebraska Educational Telecommunications video production highlighting Barnes' creative collaboration with Glass and the new quintet. Barnes' recording of the quintet with string quartet superstars Brooklyn Rider was released in October of 2019 to critical acclaim.
Barnes twelfth CD New Generations: The New Etudes of Philip Glass and Music of the Next Generation has received rave reviews. Gramophone Magazine wrote, "Pianists of Barnes's great technique and musicality are a boon to new music." And American Record Guide commented, "This disc provides further proof of Barnes's ability to communicate new music with flair and passion." Produced by Orange Mountain Music, the recording features a selection of Glass's etudes juxtaposed with works by N. Lincoln Hanks, Lucas Floyd, Jason Bahr, Zack Stanton, Ivan Moody, and Jonah Gallagher. The sonic result is a breathtaking panorama of the energetic and expressive landscape that is twenty-first century piano music. Barnes has performed the recital version of New Generations in Vienna, Seoul, Rome, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago, Interlochen, and most recently at the Music Teachers National Association Convention in Glass's hometown of Baltimore.
Barnes also commissioned and gave the world premiere of Glass's Piano Concerto No. 2 (After Lewis and Clark). The Omaha World Herald praised Barnes playing for his “driving intensity and exhilaration.” Nebraska Educational Telecommunications' production "The Lewis and Clark Concerto," a documentary/performance of the concerto featuring Barnes, won an Emmy for Best Performance Production. Additional performances included collaborations with conductor Marin Alsop at the prestigious Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and also the Northwest Chamber Orchestra where the Seattle Times called Barnes' performance "an impressive feat." The world-premier recording with the NWCO was released by Orange Mountain Music. Gramophone Magazine remarked that this recording is "certainly one of the most enjoyable recent releases of Glass's music...Paul Barnes is a shining soloist." Barnes gave the Chinese premiere of the concerto at the famous Sichuan Conservatory of Music in Chengdu China as part of an inaugural American Music festival.
Orange Mountain Music also released Barnes' recording of his transcriptions from the operas of Philip Glass, including both the Trilogy Sonata and the Orphée Suite for Piano. Gramophone Magazine observed, “Barnes offers a surprisingly expressive reading…. Atmosphere and rhythmic vitality are important, and these qualities Barnes has in abundance.” The American Record said "Barnes is an expressive pianist with a lovely tone and a flair for the dramatic." The Trilogy Sonata and the Orphée Suite for Piano are published by Chester Music of London and are available at sheetmusicplus.com. Barnes' eleventh CD, The American Virtuoso, featuring the music of Philip Glass, Samuel Barber, and Joan Tower was released on Orange Mountain Music to much critical acclaim. The American Record Guide wrote, "Another fine release from the amazing pianist Paul Barnes...with a pianist like this, new American music is in good hands."
Barnes also commissioned a new piano concerto Ancient Keys written by Victoria Bond based on a Greek Orthodox chant. The world-premiere recording of this concerto as well as Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was released on Albany Records. Barnes has also commissioned Victoria Bond to write a new piano work based on the Greek Orthodox hymn on the crucifixion of Christ. Simeron Kremate (Today is Suspended)" was co-commissioned by the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and the SDG Music Foundation in Chicago. The world premiere of Bond's new work was given at Kimball Recital Hall on March 3, 2019 with the Chicago premiere on March 10 at the beautiful Nichols Hall at the Music Institute of Chicago.
Barnes is Marguerite Scribante Professor of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music. He teaches during the summer at the Vienna International Piano Academy and the Amalfi Coast Music Festival. In great demand as a pedagogue and clinician, Barnes has served as convention artist at several state MTNA conventions, most recently at Virginia in October of 2018, and was recently named "Teacher of the Year" by the Nebraska Music Teachers Association.
Barnes latest recital A Bright Sadness: Piano music inspired by Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Native American chant features a contemplative and cathartic program of piano works inspired by the mystical world of chant. Barnes, also a Greek Orthodox chanter, has collaborated most recently with Philip Glass and Victoria Bond to create piano works based on ancient byzantine and Jewish chant. Barnes has also been a passionate champion of the works of Liszt and performs Liszt's late masterpiece, Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross exploring the painful but ultimately hopeful journey of Christ to the cross. The overall theme of "bright sadness" permeates the program as the tremendous depth and intensity of ancient chant is seen through the bright prism of hope and love. New chant-based works by Native flutist Ron Warren, David von Kampen, and Matthew Arndt are given their premiere performances.
Barnes' recordings are available on Spotify, Pandora, ITunes, Apple Music, YouTube, and Amazon.
"a majestic and reverential performance"
"atmospheric and elegant"
Time Out New York
"a riveting and sensitive player"
"a sizzling performance"
San Francisco Examiner
"A muscular,involving performance"
Omaha World Herald
San Francisco Chronicle
"A shining soloist"
"an amazing pianist"
American Record Guide
"visceral yet loving"
Anchorage Daily News
"seething with pathos"
Lincoln Journal Star
"An impressive feat"