One of the finest I have heard
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Paweł MYKIETYN (b.1971) Epifora for piano and tape [19:14] Four Preludes for piano [10:46] Shakespeare’s Sonnets for male soprano and piano [21:21]
Concerto for piano and orchestra [21:11]
Anna Stempin-Jasnowska (piano); Agata Zubel (soprano)
Polish Radio Symphonic Orchestra/Szymon Bywalec
rec. Poland, 1990s? CD ACCORD ACD194-2 [72:47]
Mykietyn ploughs his own furrow in a realm of often otherworldly dissonance. This can be heard first on this disc in Epifora (1996) for piano and tape. The tape 'speaks' first, with a mysterious soft crackling of varying volume. It's never loud and often barely audible. The piano enters and its role morphs from statuesque statements, via notes that slip and skew. The score then reaches what sounds like a winged Bachian partita but having got its breath skids off the road. There it meets a dark miasma of strange cyclical tones. There's no shortage of incidents; that's for sure. Mykietyn ends Epifora mixing a slow electronic glare and dramatic piano statements - simultaneously affirmative yet tremulous. Repeated cells of ideas suggest Gershwin crossed with Rachmaninov and the piece ends seemingly mid-phrase.
The Four Preludes (1992) were written when Mykietyn was 21. These very short pieces span quite a range: from grand romantic to quiet trembling intimation. The pattern is often cellular and repetition plays its part. Undergoing subtle dissonant metamorphosis, some of Mykietyn's ideas, at least when he is being dramatic, sound as if de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain has been extruded through a radical catalytic process. These attractive pieces are not forbidding.
The six Shakespeare Sonnets for male soprano and piano are from eight years after the Preludes. The technique adopted here forsakes any link between what the soprano has to sing and what the piano plays. The effect is fey and while these songs are from the Sonnets it feels like a song-cycle written for Ariel. In florid moments, as in My Love, the passion of this music is comparable to a Barber operatic melt-down. The fly-away pointillism and pecked out words and notes of Music to hear is almost jazzy. Its effect is comparable with Nyman's vocal/instrumental music for Prospero's Books. The fifth song Whoever hath her wish is a virtuoso piece, sweet yet light on the aural palate with a wealth of engaging detail. After rushing exuberance, we get the sort of moonlit enchantment and self communing found in some pages of Epifora. Here that mood is sustained across the whole of this last song. In this cycle the piano often sounds as if it is standing in for an orchestra.
The songs are:-
I. Let me not to the marriage of true minds
II. Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day
III. Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
IV. My love is as a fever, longing still
V. Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy will
VI. Tir’d with all these, for restful death I cry
The final work here is a 22-minute three-movement piano concerto. The first movement is a dynamically active thing - with the piano again pecking out notes while the orchestra chugs forward purposefully but discreetly. The contours limned by the Staccato are full of positive energy and delightful character. The dissonances are there but gentle and becoming. The music slowly and very gradually becomes more animated and syncopated (a touch of Philip Glass here) and once attained the staccato does not let up. The next movement is played attacca. It's a swerve into another world with gong sounds and fairy garden noises. The latter smack, ever so gently, of Ravel. A capricious slow-paced violin solo and a cool flute signal the end. The finale like the final of the four preludes is marked prestissimo possibile. The shrapnel of allusions in this movement include wild and wailing woodwind (Gershwin) and the sort of whooping fragmentation heard in Britten's Our Hunting Fathers. The piece ends with another violin solo and an interminably held note. I am not sure that the last movement lives up to the other two but there is much here to enjoy. After hearing the finale of this piano concerto there is every sign that Mykietin could deliver up a most promising violin concerto.
There is a long and involved note by Grzegorz Piotrowski in both Polish and English, side by side. CD Accord and the author are to be congratulated for avoiding the usual trap of densely indulgent musical analysis. Instead we hear more about the composer's inspiration.
The musicianship of the performers appears to leave nothing to be desired and the composer must surely be delighted with the artistry of pianist Anna Stempin-Jasnowska who appears in every one of these four scores. This is after all a disc that for its title makes play with the composer's name, its first two letters juxtaposed to come up with My Piano.
The music of this composer has been reviewed here before. Hyperion issued a CD that included his String Quartet No. 2, and CD Accord a disc with his second symphony and flute concerto (review).
Mykietyn is tough but worth hearing. This disc is a good - indeed the only - welcoming doorway if you want a Mykietyn immersion.