Ian Pace is an extraordinary pianist.
His performances are events, there's always a buzz surrounding them,
especially when he programmes the performances himself. Pace seems to
thrive on large piano recitals: he has played Messiaenís complete Catalogue
díOiseaux, Michael Finnissyís History of Photography lasting
five hours and James Dillonís now completed cycle The Book of Elements.
Having given the world premiere
of Volume III of The Book of Elements - commissioned by the Berlin
Biennale - and performances of this and other volumes in France, Germany,
the USA and the UK - Ian Pace gave the first performance of the complete
80 minute long cycle in the presence of the composer at the Warehouse
on London's South Bank.
The Book of Elements consists
of five Volumes each commissioned for a different prominent pianist
of contemporary music by various music festivals (Vol. I was commissioned
for Roger Woodward, Vol.II for Noriko Kawai, Vol. III for Ian Pace,
Vol. IV for Rolf Hind and Vol. V for Nicolas Hodges). Dillon adopted
an aesthetic of the miniature, the fragment: there is no beginning,
no end and no development. Musical thoughts and ideas appear, sparkle
and vanish. Dillonís piano music is a glass bead game: there are complex
references and memories of past music: Bartok, Scriabin, Messiaen and
many more. But they appear not as quotations in a self-consciously post-modern
way, more like shadows.
Dillonís music is rhythmically
very complex. Ian Pace plays the different time layers effortlessly.
But the music remains obscure: all the intellectual effort doesnít translate
into a consistent experience for the listener. Volume III is one of
the most virtuosic and absolutely brilliantly performed; Volume IV starts
with beautiful, slow moving sound colours reminiscent of Debussy.
Dillonís The Book of Elements
is a rich challenge for any pianist with an interest in contemporary
music. Ian Pace took up this challenge with ease and gave it a truthful
first complete performance. For the listener it was less satisfying
- The Book of Elements gives the impression of an obscure scholastic
exploration of pianistic possibilities, and not so much a development
of new musical (and emotional) qualities.
For more information about Ian Pace see http://www.ianpace.com/