Perceptive,sensitive,astonishing piano playing
scarecrow | Chicago, Illinois United States | 06/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many times music creativity needs someone with the perceptive performance imagination like Ian Pace to complete a compositional plan that,on paper seems cogent,yet when ushered into the real world it has abandoned itself.Left to the vagaries of expressionistic plurality,without a center,shattering its own vessels of perceived fortitude. Pace who has an incredible repertoire is one such pianist. As all good profound perfoming he plays a few feet past the works premise, to place it in a wonderful exciting context,usually quite objective. For this new music (dare I say The New Complexity, well it's all relative terms now), Pace is a wonderful player who places a needed air of objectivity between him and the work. You always sense here that his performances are monitors and conduits for something a dimension larger than the work itself,albeit profound ones,but ones that allow us to hear these unique piano works in a context. Brian Ferneyhough's Lemma-Icon-Epigram is one such work. Dedicated to Massimiliano Damerini,in June 1981. It was completed that month and astonishingly performed later within June at the Venice Biennale.I'd like to consider this if we can still refer to art objects as masterowrks, this is one. Although by comparison Damierini searches for the works outward,surface expressivity,rendering the work scary,phanthomized, whereas Pace allows the works complexity and beauty simply to exist,not overdetermining the works labryrinth of formations and structures, as the complex shapes of ice formations on a window pane. Ferneyhough,as a subtext for his music, keeps wonderful interface with European intellectual history,a place he often locates the creative agendas he utilizes. Here the title refers to a poetic form "Emblema" from the Italian poet Alciati during the first half of the sixtennth century. The work is a labyrinth one with modest dimensions,where the completed work is simply one realization of many, within Ferneyhough's oeuvre. Yet I'm always excited by the pure beauty of this work's density, the upper register filigree structures, like the very opening. I could listen to this stuff endlessly. But the creative agenda here is for a music constantly changing,the separation of surface and substructure(that is the Lemma section)the filigrees, shifting priorities, and materials that transmogrify into evolutional structures. Icon is chordal formations,quite short in duration. The beauty here is the work knows the limits, the thresholds of temporal tolerance,how many events can be packed into given musical moments. The Erber work has,springs more the immediate dimensions in mind, its marcato hardedge attacks in the opening here, almost digging ones fingers. There is an agenda it seems for oppositional discourse between upper and lower regions. The gesture of this music seems to be argumentative,unarticulated interrogatories,as one shouting continuously without elliptical moments,to give structural relief. There is no call and response. The effect/affect is quite menacing.Christopher Fox by contrast seems to be more playful within this context,with his repeated figures,bouncing along,also quite immediate with an air of the popular strain here, almost like borrowed objects retransformed,filtered from the Rock World. There is also suggestions of dance,gypsy with simple rhythmic displacements of two/three. Yet Fox seems to be at the center of this discourse,something keeps this nefarious materials from collapsing into nothingness of postmodernity more vacuious ends,in that I found the work compelling. The Dench was more the music we've already seen/heard,something the mind already knows, as Jasper Johns once quipped, spatial utilization of the entire keyboard canvas, very fragmented "moments musical",shifting textures which is what makes fragmentation work,evolutional with cascades in the upper registers at times. This is always an arresting effect. But I found no agenda at work here, no underlying philosophy,an aesthetic center, a worldview.How does one invest the objectivized sense of time with form articulating interreferential levels?I found No declamation within a force field.Perhaps I've missed the music,gone out over my cognitive perceptive discourse.Barrett I found compelling, here it seems he allowed his own music,his materials to direct him, the somatic quality was at work here,the music came from inside,no predetermined structural formations directing the works agenda. Again high density is what interests these folks,without sequential ordering the music seems quite free,improvised, yet with an air of jocularity, fun, of desire in a Lacanian perspective.Nothing quite obvious, again all relative.At work was surface phenonmenons,unarticulated labyrinths,quite interesting to hear.Barrett seems to be at the center and guides the music through an intense fury of moments. This approximately half an hour work breaks into self-contained movements; the Third more reflective, dare I say impressionistic,in its floating demeanor,And the Fourth we return again to the tinkling forever never World of the Upper register filigreed moments, with high levels of density of encrusted continuously moving notes."
Distinguish three aspects: hard-to-play, hard-looking, and h
placebo | 05/23/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"What you get is a burned (and not a commonly pressed!) disc, burnt on a printable CD-R with its CD label losing its ink face if a droplet of water gets lost on it, a generous 80:14 total time, and a satisfactorily detailed 11p-booklet incl portrait fotos of each of the six involved persons. There isnt much to say on the performance --Ian Pace's debut album-- itself since most of the tracks are first, world-premiere recordings for which you cannot find any comparatives. So all I can really comment on is the music itself whether it is good or why i like it. Well, let's take it this way: i bought this album because i was searching for the hardest, *the most difficult* piano solo of traditional pianism and traditional notation ever composed. Doing some research you will quickly find out that pieces written by composers affiliated with the New Complexity movement meet this criterium, writing notably more difficult pieces than, say, Barraqué, Jolivet, Sorabji, or Boulez, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Xenakis, or the 'New Virtuosity' (see KIRBY) American serial composers such as Babbitt, Martino, Sessions, Wuorinen, etc. Actually i was looking for the *most virtuoso* (or at least sounding like this!) piano piece and thought that both terms would lead to the same search result. This album proves that the most difficult is not equal to the most virtuoso nor virtuoso sounding, while it does prove that the most difficult is equal to *the most complex*. Wikipedia refers to an interview where the pianist states about Barrett's Tract, "It's one of the hardest piano pieces ever written, in a way I would describe as 'transcendental' - meaning a difficulty that lies on the very fringes of possibility. [...] All the other [transcendental] pieces [before-mentioned, composed by Barlow, Finnissy, W.Zimmermann; Bussotti, Stockhausen, Xenakis] pose great pianistic challenges, but not in that league of difficulty." and he must know it possessing an overwhelming active solo modern repertoire and being an expert in the most daring and venturesome piano literature of our times. Curious, I examined the sheet music of the almost legendary score Lemma-Icon-Epigram and of Tract before purchasing the disc. At first glance the Tract score does not look very frightening but at a closer look you will agree that the "much darker, intricate and tortuous counterpoint of Barrett [...] sometimes almost as if each finger requires a separate brain attached to it" (quoted from album introduction by Ian Pace) "is one of the most demanding piano works ever composed". However, to my ears, its sound effect is nugatory, i.e. the piece doesnt actually sound as hard as it is to play. In my opinion a pity, both for the listener and the hard-working performer! If you relate 'virtuosity', as I do, to open, bright virtuosity, brilliance, showiness, rapid-fire fingers and leaps, loudness, wildness, even banging, making full use of the entire keyboard and its resources, full textures and gorgeous piano sound masses, say to pieces such as Stravinsky's From Petrouchka or Kapustin's first 2 piano sonatas, then Tract is rather the opposite: slow, quiet, dark, lame, tame, and never sounding virtuoso. On the other hand, the score of Lemma-Icon-Epigramm by the leading figure within the New Complexity school (see wikipedia) Brian Ferneyhough does frighten at first glance, absolutely ferocious-looking in what is probably the craziest, wildest piano writing ever written (talking of traditional notation. Finnissy's extravagant, fearsome scores use some non-traditional notation so dont count in here)! And the sound?..compares well to any standard American serial piano composition with lean textures and uncoordinated, homophonic tinkling on the keyboard, i.e. the piece doesnt actually sound as hard as it looks. Please dont get me wrong, I dont really regret the purchase, but I would have preferred to have got a possibly more virtuoso *sounding* disc, for more listening enjoyment over a long time; this CD is more that type of albums which I treat as 'ah! interesting music, pretty neat, nice to have in my vast collection' but never get excited with and would put it in the remote corner of my shelf after giving it a max of 5-10 repeated hearings and then probably never again due to lack of genuine enjoyment, similar to the Stockhausen's Klavierstücke. A public audience at a recital would for sure never get enthused, thrilled nor even excited by a performance of pieces on 'Tracts', because the music, the sound isnt very exciting nor effective, and as commented earlier, never virtuoso sounding. But interesting.
To sum up, with this truely exotic album we finally have two superlatives represented: the *hardest-to-play* piano solo (Tract, 1996) ever written, and the *hardest-looking* piano score (Lemma-Icon-Epigramm, 1981) ever written. So I leave this review, this album, still in search of the most virtuoso piano solo, or better said, the *hardest-sounding* piano solo ever written..
Even if you dont agree with my opinions just expressed I hope you have found the review helpful for your intention to buy or not to buy."