Jeremy CULLEN (b. 1976)
Scenes - Volume 1
Jeremy Cullen (piano)
Maria Grigoryeva (viola), Lyudmila Kadyrbaeva (cello)
rec. Roundhead Studios, Auckland, New Zealand, 25 August 2015
NOTORNIS NTS001 [41.44]

Jeremy Cullen is a composer and pianist from New Zealand. This Scenes Vol. 1 consists of a collection of original piano pieces (including several from various film scores) as well as a set of electroacoustic Theme and Variations on an original theme for piano. Unaccountably Mr Cullen has not included liner notes with his CD but has provided this reviewer with information and background to the music.

The thirty pieces of piano music here are agreeably approachable, charming and, in the main, sunny. I would not wish to demean them in anyway when I suggest that they would be much appreciated at somewhere like the Pump Room in Bath.

The opening Notes/Poems/Dreams, written for a documentary entitled Gordon Crook: A Life of Art, ripples loosely languidly, dreamily while the first of ten Preludes from Cullen’s set of twenty-four – all in varied styles and moods - sings quietly in a neo-classical manner. Another languid, dream-like creation is the Valse Nostalgique that lives up to its name - sweeping, lilting and softly undulating. Another Prelude, this time Cullen’s No. 16 in A major sparkles before his Gymnopédie recalls the brilliance of Erik Satie. Viola and cello solos join Cullen in his evocative Avenue des Gobelins. A Waltz on a Theme of Alban Berg is a bitter sweet little creation.

I will just mention one other piece, the experimental Theme and Variations, spread over eleven tracks, which is significantly different in that it uses synths and allows dissonances. Its concept was the challenge of writing a piece where all the musical material is created by manipulating and remixing a recording of a simple piano theme. No other sound sources or instruments are allowed. Cullen says, “I tried to make the transformations quite obvious to start with, with simple effects such as delays etc, but also wanted to take the theme on quite a journey by the time we returned it to its end. Its theme is reminiscent of morse code or the disturbing secret society sequence from Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. This imaginative journey, as though through space, has its moments and I was impressed.

Ian Lace

Track listing
1. Notes, Poems, Dreams (from Gordon Crook, A Life of Art) [1:32]
2. Prelude No. 3 In D Major (from 24 Preludes) [2:29]
3. Valse Nostalgique (from The World of Eugène Atget) [3:03]
4. Prelude No. 16 In A Major [1:15]
5. Gymnopédie (from The World of Eugène Atget) [2:33]
6. Prelude No. 8 In G Minor 0:32
7. Avenue Des Gobelins (from The World of Eugène Atget) [2:02]
8. Prelude No. 1 In C Major - Lullaby [1:29]
9. Waltz On A Theme By Alban Berg [1:02]
10. Prelude No. 17 In G Sharp Minor [0:59]
11. Accompaniment to a Film Scene [2:22]
12. Prelude No. 23 In D Minor [1:52]
13. Theme from Letter To Hope [2:06]
14. Prelude No. 14 In B Major [1:19]
15. Prelude No. 4 In E Flat Minor - Tango [0:43]
16. Prelude No. 22 In E Flat Major [0:48]
17. Chorale [2:01]
18. Prelude No. 10 In F Major 1:00
19. Theme And Variations - Theme [0:43]
20. Theme And Variations - Variation 1 [0:43]
21. Theme And Variations - Variation 2 [0:51]
22. Theme And Variations - Variation 3 [0:47]
23. Theme And Variations - Variation 4 [1:18]
24. Theme And Variations - Variation 5 [0:46]
25. Theme And Variations - Variation 6 [0:54]
26. Theme And Variations - Variation 7 [0:39]
27. Theme And Variations - Variation 8 [0:43]
28. Theme And Variations - Variation 9 [1:05
29. Theme And Variations - Variation 10 [2:21]
30. Tuis, Hataitai [1:48]