Your clickable banner could be here: details
   
    If you cannot see an advert immediately above this line click here.


 

Editor: Marc Bridle

 

Webmaster: Len Mullenger

 

 

                    

Google

WWW MusicWeb


Search Music Web with FreeFind




Any Review or Article


 

 

Seen and Heard Concert Review

 

Christopher Taylor Piano Recital: Miller Theatre, Columbia University, New York City, December 3, 2004 (BH)


Charles Ives: Three Studies - No. 20: Even Durations – Unevenly Divided (1908); No. 21: Some South-Paw Pitching (c. 1914); No. 22: Andante maestoso – Piu mosso (1909)
Conlon Nancarrow: Prelude and Blues (1935); Sonatina (1941)
Béla Bartók: Sonata (1926)
John Adams: American Berserk (2001)

Conlon Nancarrow: Tango? (1983); Three Canons for Ursula (1988) - Canon A: 5/7, Canon B: 6/9/10/15, Canon C: 2/3; Three Two-Part Studies for Piano (early 1940s)
Albert Ammons: Boogie Woogie Stomp (1939)
Nick LaRocca: Tiger Rag (1917, arr. Art Tatum c. 1933)

 

In the lobby after this exhilaratingly over-the-top-in-difficulty recital, a smiling, nonchalant Christopher Taylor demonstrated one of his tricks for learning some of the diabolically complex rhythms in the Nancarrow pieces. Fishing out his hand-held electronic organizer from a pocket, he tapped the screen to reveal a menu of dozens of rhythmic patterns, organized into a sort of electronic metronome encyclopedia. Still a bit dazed from Taylor’s playing, I watched him select the rhythm used in the first of Nancarrow’s Three Canons for Ursula (written for Ursula Oppens), which is actually a tempo canon for two voices, synchronized in a five-against-seven ratio. (When the second canon begins, it is slightly faster, completing seven notes in the time required for the first part to complete five, resulting in what Mr. Taylor describes as “an unusual blippy texture.”) Onscreen, the “five-vs. -seven” rhythm was delineated by small graphics dutifully trotting across as requested, with tiny beeps making the disparate metres somewhat comprehensible.


It is impossible to overstate the difficulty of these works. A genuine American master, and a slightly eccentric one, Nancarrow came to fame with his studies for player piano, which display an almost numbing catalogue of rhythmic complexity. Why use a player piano? Try comprehending Study No. 22: Canon 1%/1.5%/2.25%, in which one voice speeds up at 1% per note, another at 1.5%, and the third at 2.25%, or Study No. 48, with a rhythmic ratio of 60:61 – no, sixty-to-sixty-one is not a misprint – and its third and final movement consisting of the first two played together. Later in life, when his solitude was overturned as the world discovered his talent, he began writing works for “regular” human pianists as well as chamber ensembles, but even these pieces have rhythmic challenges that most people would consider impossible to meet.


So back to those Canons. The ratios Nancarrow chose produce oddly limping, halting rhythms – at once strangely elegant and a bit loopy. Seeing Mr. Taylor’s head nodding back and forth as he played the second Canon with four voices in a 6/9/10/15 ratio, I realized that he had genuinely internalized these rhythmic relationships, as difficult as it was to believe. The droll Tango? has a similar laconic quality, in contrast to the hyperactive sparseness of the Two-Part Studies. These are clearly patterned after Bach’s Two-Part Inventions, but here too, Nancarrow experiments with rhythmic patterns that outdo each other in complexity. The remaining works were even more furiously virtuosic, especially the early Sonatina, whose second movement pits a 5/8 rhythm against 6/8, and the finale races off with a blisteringly complex fugue.


In between all this carefully organized mayhem came the excellent American Berserk, with yet more rhythmic complications by John Adams, his esthetic clearly influenced by Nancarrow’s, and a very fine performance of the Bartók Sonata, fusing elegance and brutality. Mr. Taylor said he had not performed the latter in close to twenty years, a state of affairs that I hope he will consider revising, given his fiercely commanding reading. If there might be any suggestion made to Mr. Taylor, it would only be that the Bartók seemed almost a bit overwhelmed by some of the virtuosic voices surrounding it. As stimulating as the entire program was, it might have benefited from just a small oasis of calm, something completely tranquil to prepare one’s ear for the next blizzard of notes, not to mention the fireworks at the end of the program.


Before the Nancarrow came Ives, whose still-dauntingly complex music challenges both performers and listeners. The fact that Mr. Taylor started his program with these uncompromisingly thorny works says volumes about his ability, not to mention his instincts: “No warming up here, thank you – let’s just get right to it.” And getting right to it, in this case, meant showing that despite their pages of virtuoso demands, these works can be made understandable by an artist who works at clarifying them. And just for the record, Taylor often deploys appealingly theatrical gestures. Almost to the end of Some South-Paw Pitching, he paused for a split-second to cock his head up to one side, as if asking the Universe, So what should come next? – and the answer, a surprising major chord, landed like a gentle joke.


The evening ended with two works that made Mr. Taylor really sweat, hard as that might be to believe: Albert Ammons’ Boogie Woogie Stomp, a beefy ramble transporting us to what sounded like some overheated swing-dance parlor in St. Louis, and the final and quite incredible Tiger Rag by Nick LaRocca, arranged by American jazz master Art Tatum. This giddy piece could have been a cartoon soundtrack, and Taylor only increased the impact by playing it blindingly fast. To quote Mr. Taylor’s lucid notes once again, “…the insane speed of Nancarrow’s player-piano music…finds a precedent in Tatum’s superhumanly nimble fingers.” But this superb recital was ultimately satisfying not only for the ability of Mr. Taylor, but for his program ideas, and the relationships between the works crisscrossing with a similar overwhelming velocity.


Bruce Hodges

 



 

Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page


 





   

 

 

 

MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here




EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Past and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.