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CD REVIEW



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Michael NYMAN (b. 1944)
The Piano Music
From “The Piano” (1993)
Heart Asks Pleasure First
Lost And Found
Silver Fingered Fling
All Imperfect Things
Big My Secret
Deep Sleep Playing
Mood That Passes Through
Attraction Of The Pedalling Ankle
From “Wonderland” (1999)
Franklyn
Nadia
Debbie
Jack
From “Enemy Zero” (1996)
Love Theme
Digital Tragedy
From “End of the Affair” (1999)
Diary of Love
From “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1989)
Why
Candlefire
Schoolroom
If
John Lenehan (piano)
rec. January-February 2005, Rectory Studio, Buckinghamshire.
SONY CLASSICAL 88697126782 [62:44]
 

Michael Nyman’s facility for turning out good tunes is a godsend to film directors, and with his current filmography listing a remarkable 74 scores the cinema has clearly responded well to his work in this field. Julian Haycock’s extensive booklet notes deal with each of the associations represented on this disc in some detail, but while I can appreciate, indeed have enjoyed some of these pieces in the context of the films for which they where written, I find myself worrying about this release perhaps more than I should.

Taking film music out of context is fine of course – we’ve been doing it for years, and I have to admit hearing and loving Nyman’s music for The Draughtsman’s Contract and others long before finally getting to see the film. One of the things I like most about Nyman’s music is the instrumentation – up to and including the incredible Memorial from The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and her Lover whose screaming saxophones still rattle around in the skull for days after a good loud airing. He has to me always been associated with the particular sound of his own band, and - not inevitably to beneficial effect - the particular intensity of Alexander Balanescu’s violin. Where we disagree in this is on the subject of The Piano: “I though the music was perfect for the needs, but when I walked away from the film I realized there was a lot of potential in that music which hadn’t been realized with the film so I went away and wrote the Piano Concerto.” 

With this long list of piano solo pieces there is often not a great deal to differentiate one tune from another – gorgeous though many of them are, especially when the piano sound has been set in an acoustic haze which makes the whole thing sound like a new age album produced by someone like Roger Eno – which is also fine and lovely – just so you know what to expect. 

You may actually like this, and as background music it does have a certain innocuous and atmospheric charm, but I do miss the subtle shades Nyman can produce with usually compact but often potentially explosive numbers of instruments. John Lenehan’s touch with Nyman’s often insistent and repetitive accompaniment figurations is also a little on the heavy side, and I would have preferred some more variety in the left hand at times – though I’m sure the whoomy recording does the playing no favours in this regard. The microphone placement seems very close, but as Manfred Eicher regularly proves on his ECM label, this doesn’t necessarily have to result in a ‘wall of piano’ effect. 

Nyman fans who are less enamoured with the earlier, harder, more muscular scores for Peter Greenaway but who liked The Piano will probably adore this disc. I have to come clean and say I am of the opposite type, who thinks things went seriously astray with the sentimentality of The Piano. I would defend any composer’s right to develop in any way he chooses, especially if it means earning him pots of money and the best of luck. To me, this is a kind of high grade contemporary gebrauchsmusik, useful for turning posh interiors with minimalist fittings and furniture into real-time film sets through which one can waft with an air of discreet mystery.

Dominy Clements

 

 


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