This disc shows, in addition to the music itself - which should
be of interest to contemporary piano music enthusiasts - the fruits
of a long-time friendship between the composer and the pianist.
The liner-notes don’t give specifics as to how they met, but Ananda
Sukarlan has been around since Lanchares’s Op. 1, which is included
here. The music has assurance and confidence, showing its influences
and possessing an independent voice. Lanchares began composing
rather late in his life; the Op. 1 just mentioned was put to paper
in 1984. Since then he has composed for chamber ensembles of various
combinations, as well as for the ballet stage. His main focus,
beginning in the 1990s, has been for piano.
We begin the programme with a work dedicated
to the pianist, Anandamania. The first composer to come
to mind here is Prokofiev, though mixed with a good deal of
Shchedrin. This piece is indicative of much that is to come
on this disc — heavily syncopated, toccata-like. Anandamania
fits a general fast-slow-fast format, with a reprise of the
beginning thematic material, piling up the off-beats and meaty
chords until the big gruff finish. Sukarlan, who also wrote
the booklet commentary on the works included here, mentions
that he had requested the piece, telling Lanchares he wanted
a “speedy and catchy short piece to end his recital” of Lanchares’s
works. It is certainly quite a curtain-closer. Sukarlan keeps
things from becoming muddy and ill-defined while he is elbow-deep
in notes, and the recording aesthetic does a good job of avoiding
over-saturation when things get intense.
The following Pieces for Alicia
are very short and quiet and are dedicated to Sukarlan’s daughter.
Both pieces are very short, the beginning of the first calling
Scriabin to mind or the quieter moments of Prokofiev’s Visions
fugitives. The second, entitled Silhouette, is a
minute of shifting chords, rather Mompou-like in character;
a lovely palate-cleanser before the earlier Two Dances and
an Interlude. Each of these three pieces was originally
intended to be free-standing, but they were put together some
time after their initial composition. Bartok Danza gets
things moving with a heavily syncopated and percussive rapidity.
Los Ojos Abiertos (Open Eyes) serves as the central
slow movement to the group, with more of a focus on atmosphere.
Mompou’s fingerprint might be seen here. And Takemitsu too;
the piece is intended as homage to Takemitsu, with the title
a reference to Takemitsu’s Les Yeux Clos. The final piece
Malabarista (The Juggler) returns to syncopations
and polyrhythms, using a bewildering collection of chords played
over a wide range of the keyboard as an illustration of the
title of the work.
Of the remaining pieces on this disc,
the Piano Sonata of 2001 is a standout; a seriously-considered
work, over a year in the writing. The first movement opens with
a jangling reminiscent of wind-chimes, punctuated by grave statements
from the left hand. There are moments when the tone warms a
bit before the stern intonations in the bass return. We do have
some hints of Latin rhythms and syncopation, but overall the
mood is uniform up to the end of the first movement, where we
have a quick show of virtuosity before the ending cadence. The
second-movement Adagio has the deep moodiness — as does
most of this work — of a Mosolov Nocturne, with a wide stretch:
the left hand shifting uneasily in the lowest notes as the right
runs and trills in the upper register. The four movements indicate
a more formal structure to this sonata, but, aside from the
nod to a scherzo-like third movement, we have little
that would remind us of a typical four-movement sonata. Sukarlan
light-heartedly states that if the sonata were a book it would
be titled “The Complete and Unabridged Guide to How to Treat
(Multiple) Rhythms, Meters, and Speed.” Rather long-winded for
a title, but you get the picture. For those who enjoy Mosolov,
look no further.
Much of the work on this disc has very
strongly delineated left- and right-hand parts, giving the pieces
somewhat of a contrapuntal nature. The two outrightly-contrapuntal
pieces, the Dos Invenciones of 2000, call to mind the
Polyphonic Notebook of Rodion Shchedrin, though not as
aggressively dissonant. Sukarlan plays these with clear articulation
and definition. A couple of the notes in the upper register
for the recording of the second Invention sound a touch
tinny, but this is of small consequence. The pieces on this
disc as a whole hold interest and, above all, have substance.
The recording ambience is clear and does not distract from Sukarlan’s
quite enjoyable playing.