My last encounter with Elena Kats-Chernin’s captivating music
came in the shape of three works on an ABC disc devoted to the
composer (see review).
There we had the Second Piano Concerto, the Wild Swans concert
suite and Mythic and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. Elements of
the concert suite make a reappearance here because some of the
pieces are heard in versions for solo piano. If you know the soprano-and-orchestral
version you will enjoy hearing these stripped back, pared down
‘Slow Food’ is the
disc’s title and there’s a culinary motif in the booklet – not
least on the front cover and in the composer’s favourite recipe,
which you can, as the saying goes, make at home - it’s Organic
pickled beetroot and egg salad with steamed flathead fillets.
The title also refers to the predominantly slow tempi of the
pieces, all of which are performed by the composer.
The first was written
for the composer’s son and it’s lightly up-tempo, a lyrical
song, whereas Russian Waltz is a simplified Rag and full
of wistful charm. Painting shows how spare and limpid
writing can still be truly evocative. The Eliza aria
from Wild Swans may be better known from a TV advertisement
and its unpretentious but catchy warmth is shared by the Naïve
Waltz. Much of the writing is treble-orientated but the
bass keys get a visit in the Chopinesque Silvery Night –
full of rolled chords and a nineteenth century salon feel. It’s
a theme revisited in Silver Poetry. And another influence
on her is Tchaikovsky, specifically the piano music, as in Autumn
which pays oblique homage to The Seasons.
Road to Harvest
Slow shows a certain kinship with the music from the film
The Piano – Kats-Chernin’s music has occasionally reminded
me of Nyman and Adams in the past. This is a discreet and very
lyrical piece, which exists in several versions. The big last
track, Phoenix Story "Tears from Above"
shows the same influences. Her admiration for Michel Legrand
is shown in Burnished Silver with its full complement
of rich harmonies. There’s great lyric tracery in one of my
favourites from among the selection of nineteen – Silver
Pearls from Silver Poetry.
This is a feast
for Kats-Chernin’s admirers – delightful music, sensitively
played by the composer and judiciously recorded.