Ramey was born in
Illinois and studied with Alexander
Tcherepnin between 1959 and 1962.
Later in the 1960s he worked with
Copland while he was at the apex of
his embrace with dissonance.
His piano music has
been dealt a lucky and expert hand
by Toccata; in fact two hands of which
this is the second! The same company
has already issued a CD of three of
his sonatas and other pieces played
by Stephen Gosling, TOCC
0029. This was released in 1996.
Turning now to the
present disc. The Diversions are
a cavalcade of angular grotesqueries.
Angular they may be but they display
a romantic sensibility coloured by
the piano music of Bartók and
Prokofiev. Indeed the final Diversion
of the eight is a Homage to
Prokofiev. Often sepulchral, sometimes
grim, occasionally obsessive, this
sequence recalls for me Mussorgsky's
Pictures from an Exhibition and
I wonder if that work was this work’s
unstated model. The Night movement
is shiningly done in a shimmer of
moonlight. From a year later comes
the Book 1 set of Epigrams.
With its titles Calm, Sarcastic,
this made me think of Foulds' Essays
in the Modes. In fact this is
music of character in which the mood
is sharply chiselled with a much more
wholehearted indulgence in dissonance
than is found in the Diversions.
The gawky Vigorous is a classic
example of all-elbows fantasy. This
sequence struck me as the aural equivalent
of cubism. Back to a sort of cross
between Kapustin, Joplin and 1960s
Copland for the Leningrad Rag
written for Horowitz of all people.
Winter Nocturne and Ode
for FDR have such a still and
syrupy pulse that forward energy seems
sapped and weakened. The helter-skelter
shrapnel of Prokofiev returns for
Toccatas Nos. 1 and 2.
The Piano Sonata No. 4 is in two movements
- a Monologue with Arabesques and
a 14 minute Fantasy Ballade.
The music is dark, clearly laid out,
reflective, grand guignol and often
tense-obsessive. The Primitivo
is in much the same downright
tracing its lineage to Prokofiev and
Bartók. The notes by Conti
and Benjamin Folkman in fact point
out that the composer can speak in
long-lined lyricism as well as tangy
dissonance. It makes you also want
to hear his Horn Concerto (1987) and
his JFK – Oration for speaker and
orchestra (2007). Back to those
notes again. They are lucid, full,
include the details you want and,
a mark of Toccata’s values, include