Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider

 


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

alternatively
AmazonUK AmazonUS

 

Player Piano 6: Original Compositions in the Tradition of Nancarrow
James TENNEY (1934-2006)
Music for Player Piano (1964) [5:00]
Spectral Canon for Conlon Nancarrow (1974) [3:33]
Tom JOHNSON (*1939)
Study for Player Piano (1994) [4:05]
Daniele LOMBARDI (*1946)
Toccata for Player Piano (1987) [3:37]
Steffen SCHLEIERMACHER (*1960)
Four Pieces for player piano and prepared player piano (1999) [11:23]
Fünf Stücke für Player Piano (1997/2004) [13:37]
Krzysztof MEYER (*1943)
Les Sons Rayonnants für zwei Player Pianos und Synthesizer (2000) [11:40]
Marc-André HAMELIN (*1961)
Solfeggietto a cinque for Player Piano. (After C. P. E. Bach, 1999) [3:45]
Pop Music? (1998) [3:26]
Circus Galop for two Player Pianos (1991-1994) [4:32]
Bösendorfer Grand Piano with Ampico Player Piano Mechanism (1927)
Fischer Grand Piano with Ampico Player Piano Mechanism (1925)
rec. 19-24 June 2005, Immanuelskirche Wuppertal
MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG64514062 [65:47]

 

Experience Classicsonline


Conlon Nancarrow is the acknowledged grandfather of any modern player piano ‘school’ which can be said to exist, not only for the fact that he brought the instrument back from almost total obscurity. Having become little more than a footnote in music-instrument history, Nancarrow’s single-minded purpose in using the player piano to explore remarkable compositional techniques and the performance of ‘unplayable’ piano music which is nonetheless approachable and often quite good fun is one of the great legacies of musical thought and research in the last century, and so it is hardly surprising that composers have been inspired to follow in his footsteps. Ligeti is a notable example of one who responded to Nancarrow’s imagination, and one whose style is eminently suited to some of the extended technical possibilities of the player piano. The realization of all of the remarkable music on this and MDG’s other excellent Nancarrow discs is the work of Jürgen Hocker, who worked closely with Nancarrow and many of the composers on this disc. He has restored his own Ampico-Bösendorfer, performed and promoted Nancarrow’s music all over Europe, and motivated and created the possibility for commissions from new generations of composers.

Something akin to the seemingly infinite possibilities in electronic music, the player piano is a musical playground which requires careful use unless it is to become a kind of ego-trip fantasy fairground. Fortunately for us, Hocker and MDG have used sensitivity and discretion in the composers and works which are presented here. True, there is plenty of madness and some heavy piano-bashing which may drive many up the wall, but if you know and appreciate the work of Nancarrow then you will most certainly want to extend your appreciation of his remarkable instrument. Many of the works here are remarkable, some incredible, some great fun, others more enigmatic and heavier on the brain, but all have their own rewards and share that sense of pioneering experiment which seems to be a built-in feature of the player-piano.

Earliest of the works here is James Tenney’s Music for Player Piano, which is rich in the avant-garde spirit of its time. Both of Tenney’s works owe a technical debt to Nancarrow, the first being a sequence presented in its ‘normal’, and subsequently inverted form. The Spectral Canon for Conlon Nancarrow reveals much in its title, but the effect is quite startling, like Glenn Branca’s overtone music. The piece is a rhythmic canon with 24 voices, building steadily until the texture is saturated with an impossible density of notes on one monumental chord.

Tom Johnson’s work is often minimalist and monothematic in terms of themes and ideas, and his Study for Player Piano is ‘as much music as possible with as little effort as necessary.’ Instead of rows of perforations, Johnson uses continuous slits in the piano roll, resulting in pure glissandi or absolute clusters over 40 notes. This is another remarkable effect, but the musical rewards are ultimately mechanical rather than anything else.

Daniele Lombardi’s Toccata for Player Piano is another spectacular experiment with ‘some of the peripheral aspects of the mechanical system, such as unplayable elements and the mirroring of complex patterns.’ The work is indeed impressive, but actually sounds fairly approachable to a skilled piano duo or duet. More interesting to my mind is some of the work of Steffen Schleiermacher, whose mad sound palette includes prepared ‘percussion’ piano effects. His pieces involve two player pianos, which engagingly contrast different rhythms and effects, often with a good deal of humour. This is reflected in some of the titles, such as the incredible and highly entertaining Björk’s://prep@red pl@yer pi@no p@ir p@s@c@gli@, and The Loneliness of the Key in the Lock, in which identical material from the standard player piano is gradually taken over by that of the prepared instrument. Other highlights come from Schleiermacher’s oeuvre is from his excellent set of studies, the Fünf Stücke für Player Piano. These works were originally conceived for fairground organ but were essentially re-written for the player piano, and the influences on Ligeti and Nancarrow are freely acknowledged by the composer, who has a knack of making the impossibly technical bravura of the player piano both approachable and enjoyable by throwing all kinds of eclecticism into the mixture.

Krzysztof Meyer, a Polish composer whose work includes larger scale symphonic and choral work, introduces different colours to the music with the addition of a synthesizer for Les Sons Rayonnants. The synthesizer part was originally intended for live woodwinds, but this turned out to be too difficult to realise in performance. Meyer’s work has a different feel and atmosphere to the ‘crash bang wallop’ of some of the other pieces, grand though they are. The contrast is welcome, but the synthesizer sounds often sound a bit weedy and redundant next the butch percussiveness of the two player pianos. I’m not sure what effect the original concept would have sounded like, but Meyer and Hocker could always go all out and synchronise the pianos with another live instrument, say, a decent barrel organ. Many of the artificial sounds are pipe based, and percussion effects are also a feature of such instruments: maybe not quite ‘The Busy Drone’ in full cry, but speakers next to live instruments are often problematic (and yes, that opening tune is Alec Templeton’s Bach goes to Town!).

Talking of Bach, Marc-André Hamelin takes us further with a remarkable Solfeggietto a cinque after C.P.E. Bach, which reminded me a little of Bob James’ experiments with Scarlatti on the Moog synthesizer. This is a kind of extended or hyper-Bach, de-humanised and brought into entirely different realms, but fascinating and refreshing nonetheless. Hamelin’s Pop Music transports us with a tremendous adaptation and development of ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’, whose obsessional repetition, jazzy interjections and cumulative build-up towards the end create a romp almost beyond imagining. Just when you thought the player piano could be taken no further, Hamelin gives us the Circus Galop for two player pianos. This showstopper has elements of Gershwin, Gottschalk, Grainger and Gawd knows who else, and as a novelty item is worth the price of this disc on its own. Hamelin freely admits that the reason for having two player pianos is that there are too many notes for the pneumatic system of one instrument to cope with, and the building crescendos are describes as human pyramids, that of the coda having ‘each added member juggling something different, and ending with a fatal accident’.

Heavens, this is a cracker of a CD. MDG’s production is well-nigh perfect as ever, with extensive booklet notes by Jürgen Hocker and some of the composers, and an exemplary recording. As ever with this series, the motor noise of the air pumps for the player pianos has been eliminated by placing them in a room outside the recording location, an attractively roomy church acoustic which gives the music an appealing concert setting without clouding the detail through having too much resonance. The use of two instruments provide some spectacular antiphonal/stereo effects for the hi-fi buffs and the music, while sometimes a little wild and abrasive, is more often than not stimulating and life-enhancing, to my mind at least. The end of Circus Galop made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it, and I know this will be one of those soundtracks I can always turn to for the darker moments in life, like having to clean the cat box or losing the tax returns.

Dominy Clements

 





 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.