In case you’re wondering the disc’s title derives from the English
translation of Alexis Weissenberg’s 1982 Sonata. It’s part of
a free-ranging conspectus of music spearheaded by two iconoclastic
European pianists – Gulda and Weissenberg himself – and seconded
by the Russian composer Nikolai Kapustin. To fly the flag for
American iconoclasm we have George Antheil’s ninety-second Jazz
Three of Gulda’s
exercises are scattered throughout the programme. The First
features some elegant rolling left hand work and some Tatumesque
right (all classical composers and players seem fixated by Tatum
and Bud Powell; why don’t they go and listen to Earl Hines or
Jess Stacy for a change?) The Fourth Exercise is longer, at
nearly four minutes; it plies a subversive railroad blues cross
pollinated with deft Harlem Stride - a sort of modified Meade
Lux Lewis meets James P Johnson – before taking the branch line
toward cosmopolitan modernism; evocative, kaleidoscopic, worthwhile.
The Fifth has some rolling bop lines and hints of Oscar Peterson.
I also rather like Gulda’s Prelude and Fugue; despite the academic
title this is a swinger. It’s also an arpeggio driver, boppish,
with incessant tidal waves of funkier Cubano material – something
like a pared down version of Ray Bryant.
sonata was written in 1989. It has an ebullient tunefulness
that means an enjoyably inventive twenty-one minutes in Hamelin’s
typically resourceful performance. There’s enviable charm with
bluesy lay-bys in the first movement, boogie intimations and
Gershwin as well, and also a reflective coda. There’s an energetic
scherzo with a pert and swinging trio section – classical form
in Kapustin’s music put to the use of that most disputable of
things, notated jazz – as is the case with all these pieces
of course. The slow movement is wistful and it’s followed by
an allegro section that leads to a free wheeling finale. Apparently
Kapustin has said that this movement is generally taken too
fast by pianists and that he didn’t have – wait for it – Art
Tatum in mind but – wait for it again – country and western.
Well I’ll be darned. It’s certainly fast for C & W.
is, in its composer’s words, a classical construction contaminated
by jazz. The first movement is a tango, whilst the second is
a helter skelter Charleston and quixotic. The slow movement
is a rather withdrawn and evasive blues somewhat impressionistically
objectified and contoured. The finale is a samba with appropriately
fulsome voicings. It’s a jazz sonata in the broadest sense really;
more of a musical travelogue. His Trenet arrangements were published
anonymously as it was considered career suicide to be associated
with anything as “commonplace” as this back then. He takes some
well-known songs and others that are not as popular, six altogether.
Coin de rue evokes a barrel organ whilst Vous oubliez
votre cheval is glitteringly busy and saturated with dance
vigour. En Avril, à Paris is suitably romantic and that
terrific song Boum! has a healthy infusion of Errol Garner.
Vous qui passez is a veritable moto perpetuo of Lisztian
bravura. Talking of which the concluding item in Hamelin’s programme,
the Anthiel, is, in the pianist’s words, ninety seconds of musical
nonsense. It’s a sort of crazed varsity rag, the Charleston
on amphetamines. Great fun.
us, almost, that these pieces are aerated by unnotated freedoms.
They’re not, of course. Everything is written down. The trick,
the gift, is to bring them to the kind of life that Hamelin