Chick Corea Children's Songs
Gyorgy Ligeti Fanfare, Rainbow & Autumn in Warsaw
Piazolla Milonga del Angel & Libertango
Bartok Sonata for Piano, Sz. 80
- - - - - -
Ives The Alcotts
Beethoven Sonata No. 32 in C Minor Op.111
This was the third of three remarkable Sunday morning
concerts before the Easter break, attracting people from other parts
of the capital and confirming Blackheath Halls' steadily increased standing
in London's music life. The Recital Room was full once more for Joanna
MacGregor, a popular charismatic pianist who has established her
own record label. At first sight, the above sequence may look bizarre,
but it worked wonderfully well and was supplemented by Joanna
MacGregor's thoughtful programme notes; yes, she is an excellent
writer, too! Chick Corea's 'modal harmonies and drone-like left hand'
foreshadowed the Eastern European pieces to follow. Ligeti's Fanfare
on ' a jazzy Bartok-like 3+2+3 pattern' linked to the latter's
Sonata, 'ferocious physically and intellectually', before which
Piazolla had provided listeners with a welcome interlude.
Ives The Alcotts, a movement from the Concord
Sonata, is 'an improvisatory meditation on the opening 'fate'
theme from Beethoven's 5th' and Joanna MacGregor pointed
the connection by leading attacca straight into Op 111; nor did
she pause before the Arietta, its famous third variation 'a
truly jazzy, funky episode' for which Beethoven 'almost had to
invent a notation to write down music that escaped the old regularities
and reassurances of 3/4 and 4/4'. Everything except the Ligeti studies
(their pages cast away to flutter down onto the floor) was played by
memory and, to conclude a special recital, hers was a fresh, considered
account of Op 111, which reassured us that this trendy, with-it pianist
had not renounced the classical canon. Perhaps, there may have been
an additional interest for Joanna MacGregor herself in needing to come
to terms with the Blackheath Bösendorfer, which she confessed to
me felt very different from the more usual Steinways she plays. Afterwards,
mercifully, no encore!
Joanna MacGregor's most recent CD, SoundCircus
, released in association with Unknown
Public, includes Piazzolla, Ligeti, Nancarrow & Ives items played
at Blackheath. It is a programme characteristic of her eclectic recitals,
with juxtapositions of aesthetic opposites very much of the new century.
Play is a sequence of mostly short items such as you might hear
on R3's Late Junction. Cool, fastidious Byrd, melancholy Dowland
and soothing Bach on the one hand, unplayable Ligeti and Nancarrow on
the other (having seen her play them live, I can vouch that they are
not over-dubbed!); exotic duets with Talvin Singh and Moses Molelekwa
and much more (Molelekwa died 'shockingly young' shortly after Colin
Still had described his London recital with MacGregor as 'one of
the most inspired collaborations I've heard in a long time').
Having enjoyed and responded to most of the fifteen
tracks, perhaps I may be forgiven for having found Somei Satoh's cosmic
Incantation II overlong and, on the other hand, for suggesting
that the minimalist miniaturist Howard Skempton's aspiration 'to write
the perfect five-second work' might find its inspiration in John Cage's
4'33"? MacGregor here represents Cage with his Balanese-inspired dance
for prepared piano, Sonata No.5. The presentation of Play, with
a glossy colour-illustrated booklet, is luxurious and purposive, an
increasingly uncommon combination from the 'major' companies.
Public's own releases have been hailed for their unstuffy, innovative
freshness in both presentation and content. The latest is No.12 Talking
Drums, edited by percussionist Paul Clarvis, with quasi-'classical'
tracks of Varese, Ferneyhough and Tuur, and an assortment of ear-catching
pieces selected because he likes them, by musicians and composers who
refuse to be pigeon-holed. The notes designed by Jonathan Barnbrook
& Pedro Inoue, each track on a separate card, are presented with
such original and inventive typography as to comprise veritable works
of art. And if that is not enough to tempt you, there is a bonus extra,
.comp, a complimentary compilation of music from nine
CMN tours from October 2000 to March 2001, introduced by Mark Russell,
co-presenter of one of my favourite Radio 3 programmes, and a special
offer for UP's most popular back issue (UP08
sensuality: essence & nonsense) with a reduced price subscription;
a worth-while deal.
Peter Grahame Woolf