Michael Mizrahi poses for a photo in the seats of Memorial Chapel.
Michael Mizrahi: Dreamspace is his third solo piano album. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Concert pianist Michael Mizrahi is an unabashed advocate for contemporary classical music.

“I’ve made it part of my mission as an artist to bring new music into the world,” said Mizrahi, the Frank C. Shattuck Professor of Music at Lawrence University.

His third solo piano album, Dreamspace, available June 14 on the Sono Luminus label, does just that. It features new works from eight composers, three of whom have direct Lawrence connections. Joanne Metcalf, a composer who has had her music performed by the likes of Singer Pur, Gothic Voices, and Variant 6, is a colleague in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. She contributed a piece titled The Undreaming. Composers Evan Williams ’10 and David Werfelmann ’06 are Lawrence alumni—Williams composing a piece for Mizrahi titled The Red Devil Dreams of Numbers and Werfelmann the piece, Suite à l'antique.

“The longer I’ve been here, the deeper my connections have grown,” said Mizrahi, on the Lawrence faculty since 2009.

Dreamspace album cover
Dreamspace, on the Sono Luminus label, is available as a CD and on vinyl, as well as on music streaming services. 

Mizrahi has received wide acclaim for his artistic excellence. He has performed on some of the world’s greatest stages—Carnegie Hall, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Chicago Cultural Center, among them. He is a founding member of NOW Ensemble, a chamber group devoted to the commissioning and performing of new music by emerging composers. NOW Ensemble released its seventh album, Before and After, in 2021.

Mizrahi has released two previous solo albums, The Bright Motion in 2012 and Currents in 2016, both featuring newly commissioned works for solo piano. He was set to record and release Dreamspace in 2020—until the COVID pandemic happened.

“I had a recording date booked and everything,” Mizrahi said. “But we all know how 2020 went. Some of the pieces that were written for me go back 10 years. Now I’m excited to get some of these pieces out into the world.”

Many of those compositional pieces were written specifically for Mizrahi. They cater to his strengths as a pianist—rhythmic vitality and a commitment to exploring the sonic possibilities of the 88 keys played in a traditional way.

“I think this album is a little more mellow than my other albums, so it has that more impressionist sound,” Mizrahi said.

That, combined with three of the pieces referencing dreams or nighttime, led to the Dreamspace title.

“I kept coming back to that imagery,” Mizrahi said.

He also kept coming back to the mission to elevate new music, to grow the 21st century repertoire for piano.

“It’s not just, OK, I played it, let’s move on to the next thing,” Mizrahi said. “It’s getting it out there for other people to play; getting it to students; getting it to colleagues. Some pieces from my previous albums have now been recorded by others. That is how music gets into the repertoire. And some of those pieces, hopefully in 100 years will still be played.”

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That is all part of giving back as an artist, Mizrahi said. It’s an important lesson he tries to impart to his students in the Conservatory.

“We talk a lot in the Conservatory about bringing forward compositional voices that maybe don’t get as much airtime, so to speak, as some of the canonic composers,” Mizrahi said. “Whether it is composers from marginalized groups or composers whose music was only recently discovered or pieces that are just being written today, as performers we need to make it our mission to help bring that music into the world.”

Along with Metcalf, Williams, and Werfelmann, Dreamspace features works from composers Andrea Mazzariello, Mark Dancigers, Yiheng Yvonne Wu, Chiayu Hsu, and Alan Shockley, all of whom Mizrahi has connected with in the past.

“Those of us who are fortunate enough to have had the training and experience to be playing at a certain level, I think part of the way we give back to society is bringing new works into the world,” Mizrahi said. “There are a ton of people out there who can play Chopin and Mozart, and every performance is different and there is no reason we shouldn’t play that music. But it truly is incumbent upon us as performers to commission composers, to premiere new works, to enter new works into the conversation with the older works, creating an ever-changing landscape.”

Mizrahi, who shares more information on the album on his website, received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, where his concentrations were in music, religion, and physics. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the Yale School of Music.

Outside of the classroom and studio, Mizrahi has worked to foster partnerships between Lawrence’s Conservatory of Music and the surrounding community over the past 15 years. He helped found Lawrence’s Music For All project that brings classical chamber music to children and populations who ordinarily do not participate. And he has been instrumental in bringing immersive summer music programs to the Lawrence campus. He led the launch of two programs that will debut during the summer of 2024—the Lawrence Summer Music Institute that is designed for advanced high school pianists and string players (July 14-21, 2024) and the Lawrence Chamber Music Festival, designed for advanced instrumentalists ages 18 and over (July 21-Aug. 4, 2024)