Amplified Soul
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Sonata No. 7 in D major, op. 10 No. 3 [24:52]
Serge RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943]
Moment Musical in B flat minor, op. 16 No. 1 [6:56]
Mason BATES (b.1977)
White Lies for Lomax (2007) [7:01]
Dan VISCONTI (b.1982)
Amplified Soul (2014) [4:59]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Variations in B flat minor, op. 3 [11:59]
Gabriela Martinez (piano)
rec. 2-4 December 2014, Concert Hall of the Performing Arts Centre, Purchase College, State University of New York, USA
DELOS DE3526 [54:50]

This is a remarkably disparate programme of music; five works by five different composers, ranging from Beethoven in 1798 to Dan Visconti in 2014. On the face of it, it is hard to discern much of a link. One is nevertheless present—that of the commitment and strong artistic personality of the brilliant young Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez. There is nothing unnecessarily showy or quirky in her playing, yet she projects a seriousness of purpose and an intensity of concentration that draws the listener in towards the heart of each work.

The Beethoven op. 10 No. 3, though a relatively early work, is a wonderfully subtle and varied piece, which gives Martinez every opportunity to display her gifts, technical and musical. She characterises the four movements sharply; the first has a complexity of discussion and incident that totally belies its butter-wouldn’t-melt opening theme, while the deep melancholy of the Largo e mesto is conveyed without the exaggeration that can tip it towards sentimentality. The remaining two movements—a Minuet that is in reality a capricious scherzo and a brilliant finale that takes a while to decide to get itself moving—are played with equal understanding and imagination.

The remaining music on the disc cannot quite scale the Beethovenian heights, but that is hardly a devastating criticism. The Rachmaninov is a lovely work, and Martinez succeeds in finding its poetry, though I believe she will, as she matures, also find deeper seams of emotion in it.

Then follow the two fascinating recent pieces, both by talented young American composers. Though I knew one of them by name, I had not previously heard a note of the music of either Mason Bates or Dan Visconti. The former’s Web site says that he has recently been described as “the most-performed composer of his generation” (he is forty), an assertion about as hard to refute as it is to substantiate! But White Lies for Lomax is a delightful piece, with overtones of jazz and textures that brought to mind those of Claude Debussy in numbers such as Le danse de Puck in the Préludes Book 1.

Dan Visconti’s Amplified Soul, which gives this issue its title, is a more thoughtful piece, hesitant at first, but it soon expands into a sustained lyricism, employing the whole range of the instrument.

I have to say, not knowing what to expect, that I was surprised and delighted by both these new pieces. What is so impressive is the control of the material, over admittedly quite brief time-spans, and, above all, the effortless sense of purpose and direction shown by both of these young(ish) composers.

Szymanowski’s B flat minor Variations complete the disc. It is an early work with a strong Russian flavour in its rather lovely, moody theme. Despite the work’s immaturity, one can feel the composer working towards something more radical, the harmonies thickening and complicating as the piece progresses. There is much that is technically challenging here; the brilliance of the writing reminds us that the piece was written for no less a performer than the great Arthur Rubinstein. Martinez throws off the more athletic passages with great bravura, but also produces a beautifully rich and deep sound for the quieter variations.

All the music on this CD is by composers in their youth. Indeed the oldest, at the time of writing his White Lies, was Mason Bates! Gabriela Martinez draws out superbly the poetry and the passion in every one of these fine works. There is no question that she is a major talent, definitely one to watch—or rather to listen to.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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