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Floating, Drifting
György LIGETI (1923-2006)
Musica Ricercata No.7 (1951-53) [2:40]
Michael Zev GORDON (b.1963)
Crystal Clear (2003) [1:05]
John Luther ADAMS (b. 1953)
Four Thousand Holes (2010) [32:47]
Luciano BERIO (1925-2003)
Wasserklavier (1969) [2:13]
Michael PISARO (b. 1961)
Floating, drifting (2001) [30:06]
Ian Pace (piano), Simon Limbrick (percussion)
rec. 2017, St Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda

There are several interesting features about this disc – not including the fact that the dates of birth and death are reversed in the track listing – one of the most notable of which is the fact that two large-scale pieces are programmed alongside the briefest of satellite works.

The biggies are John Luther Adams’ Four Thousand Holes and Michael Pisaro’s Floating, drifting, the piece that gifts its name to the album title. Adams’ work takes its titular inspiration from The Beatles’ A Day in the Life (‘Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire’) and was composed in 2010 for piano, percussion (vibraphone and orchestra bells) and what is described, correctly, as ‘electronic aura’. This expansive, meditative work, with its sonically precise colours runs through a variety of moods and textures, one moment serene, the next more textually harder. It’s too susceptible to metric and tonal change to evoke much conventional sense of Minimalism, though it may share a certain Zen groove. Paradoxically whilst the elements of change are small, the music remains compellingly alive, and it exerts quite a pull.

Pisaro’s Floating, drifting was composed nearly a decade before Adams’ work. It’s suggested it’s played by the stopwatch to ensure it lasts half an hour, so this performance has come in bang on the money. It’s music of extreme dynamics and long silences and for much of its length hovers just so far above audibility one wonders if anything is being played at all (often nothing is). Lest this remind one of Cage’s 4’33 – or indeed, much further back, of Schulhoff’s Dadaist skit in his Fünf Pittoresken in which one movement consists entirely of rests – the comparisons, such as they are, end there. One can’t fault the dynamics-conscious pianist Ian Pace, but I find the piece interminable.

It’s much more fruitful to turn to Ligeti’s brief Musica Ricercata No.7 and its intriguing ostinati and various crisp transformations, so full of the crispest clarity and allure. Talking of Crystal Clear, this is the title of Michael Zev Gordon’s blink-and-you-miss-it, one-minute piece, that manages to sound deft and precise. Berio’s Wasserklavier is allusive, elusive, limpid and engrossing, though the predominantly Brahmsian allusions - to Op.117 – are, as ever, reflective of the ambiguity of the music.

Pace and percussionist Simon Limbrick make a fine case for this very individually shaped programme and have been well recorded. The notes are brief but pertinent, like some (but not all) of the music.

Jonathan Woolf

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