I assume the cover
picture is of Tomoko Mukaiyama herself – hair askew and naked
from the waist up, half turned to the viewer, mildly confrontational.
She espouses five works by five women composers and some of
them share this stark aesthetic – though not all.
Adriana Hölszky deliberately asks for an out of tune piano –
and it sounds prepared as well in places – for her flurried
and daemonic Lisztian tribute. Liszt is largely absent from
the first part where the bordello piano encompasses the rictus
and the static. In part two there is a degree of syncopation
and some shouts from the pianist – one assumes scripted – before
percussive wooden tattoos are beaten out on the piano’s body
and some refracted Lisztian quotations emerge.
Vanessa Lann’s aesthetic
differs totally from this confrontational stance. Her Inner
Piece may be a bad pun but it makes for better music.
It’s a toccata, and it rolls into a boogie-woogie excitingly,
treble flecking drama tinged with bop traces. Soon a pop tune
evolves, drizzled with upper voiced delicacy – intricate and
attractive. It’s played with commendable evenness of articulation.
The senior composer
here, Galina Ustvolskaya’s Sonata dates from 1998 and is a gruff
and gimlet work. Insistent chordal clusters predominate, stealthy
blackness alongside musing single lines; a Shostakovich-like
mordancy predominates. It’s an intense, unforgiving work.
The Sonata of Sofia
Gubaidulina is by some way the earliest of the quintet of works
and dates from 1965. Broadly tonal but once more insistent this
manages to generate an inexorable swing from about 8’00 in the
long first movement. Oscillating between dramatic flourish and
more limpid reflective material the central movement encapsulates
a powerful internal drama whilst the last movement, whilst gruelling,
also seems to flirt with boogie rhythms.
Finally we arrive
at Meredith Monk’s Double Fiesta. The pianist plays a
simple accompaniment to her own wordless vocal – ecstatic curlicues
and whoops run throughout, the shamanistic drug of the vocal
exerting a strong pull. And a delightful way to end a recital
that proves, on and off, tough going.