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Louis PELOSI (b. 1947)
Thirteen Preludes and Fugues, with Epilogue, for Piano (2000-2003) [86:41]
Mateusz Borowiak (piano)
rec. 2011/12, Academy of Music, Katowice, Poland KASP RECORDS 57731 [40:58 + 45:43]
This is my first encounter with the music of the New York-based composer Louis Pelosi. I was fascinated to read in the accompanying booklet that he hasn't followed the more traditional path of composers, but made his living as a self-employed piano technician. Having shunned academia and the commercial music world and not being a performer, he has foregone grants, commissions and premieres. The result: he has had to organize and self-fund performances of his music. He was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and studied at the University of Notre Dame, the Hartt College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, where he could count Charles Wuorinen as a teacher.
The Thirteen Preludes and Fugues with Epilogue date from 2000-2003. Pelosi states that the 27 pieces should be regarded as one work, though they needn't necessarily be played as such. The cycle ascends through the circle of fifths from C to C. He divides the pieces into four groups, each offering a degree of diversity and contrast. Roughly speaking, the first are expansive, the second decorative and ornamented. Group three are described as 'stark or quixotic', with the fourth 'the longest and most demonstrative'. Across the groups there's a feeling of natural flow, where the music grows, intensifies, builds to a climax and subsides. At the end of the cycle there's a Grand Fugue in C for 2, 3, 4 and 5 voices, with the Epilogue acting as a detached coda. Pelosi is at pains to stress the importance of contrapuntal music, satisfying for its intellectual stimulation and its range and breadth of expression. These pieces have been a voyage of discovery for him.
Here's something of the vast scope of mood and expression you will find. In Prelude I in C the opening chords have a Scriabinesque flavour. The G major prelude, which follows, is impressionistic, and Borowiak's brush-stroke colouring of the diaphanous writing is captivating. The first thing that sprung to mind when I heard the Fugue III in D was the fugue in G minor, BWV 885 from the Well Tempered Clavier. Fugue V in E contrasts lightly textured luminosity with dramatic darker elements. Fugue V1 in B has a virtuous simplicity. The jaunty, almost jazzy rhythms of Prelude IX in A flat are compelling, whilst Prelude XI in B flat is piquant and spicy.
Mateusz Borowiak's dazzling technique and intelligent musicianship are impressive on all counts. He has the full measure of this challenging music for which he is a persuasive advocate. I was won over by the astonishing array of colour he coaxes from his Steinway.
Beata Jankowska, the producer and recording engineer, deserves special praise. She has collected numerous awards and accolades along the way for her notable contributions to the recording industry. She here proves her worth in the sterling quality of the recording, where clarity of contrapuntal lines emerges with immaculate precision and definition, within an acoustic sympathetic to this end.
The recording is dedicated to the memory of the composer's late wife Rosemarie Koczy (1939-2007).