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Alessandro Viale has been making quite a reputation for himself as a sensitive and versatile accompanist especially working for Peter Seabourne's Sheva label where I first met him. But he can stand on his own as a fine recitalist and virtuoso. He teaches and works at the Guildhall School of Music and at Trinity Laben and he has an especial interest in contemporary works as witnessed by this CD.
It may be that you associate minimalism with quite extended works which take some time to graft through their gradually developing ideas but this recording consists of sixteen short pieces, only one of which is longer than five minutes and they are mostly well contrasted including the high complexity of Ligeti’s Musica ricercata No7 from a set of pieces composed, amazingly, as early as the 1950’s. In contrast and looking at some of the other music by lesser-known composers, we can often move on to the calm and peace of mind of several works including two which especially attracted me; one by the German composer Nils Frahm and his Familiar and Maxwell Davies’s Snow Cloud, Over Lochan.
But Viale is not alone on the disc; violinist Rebecca Raimondi joins him in four items including the energetic landscape of David Lang ‘s Light moving. Even more animated is Mains by the Belgium composer Wim Mertens one of three works for piano duet. In this he is joined by his fellow Italian Assunta Cavallari and the work’s sudden end is as breath-taking as the ‘moto perpetuo’ texture itself. Memorable for its rather nostalgic quality is another duet The Forgotten Strains by Matteo Sommacal, better known for his film music.
It was a genius of an idea to end the disc with Arvo Pârt’s archetypal, minimalist Spiegel im Spiegel. If you don’t know it you might find helpful a quite perceptive description of this piece by a pupil of mine as “ a modern-day Bach/Gounod Ave Maria”. Anyway, it rounds the disc off with an ideal sense of calm.
In normal circumstances I would find it annoying that there are no booklet notes and composer biographies with the disc but in this case it’s fascinating to listen through to the entire disc, with its rather short playing time, without any preconceptions and without bias, and without any rambling composer explanations. As for the recording, the piano chosen is a fine Steinway and it offers one of the best piano ‘sounds’ I have heard for some time, natural, warm but with some bloom and an even tone quality especially in the bass.
If you are able to sample a track then why not go for Ólafur Arnold’s mesmerising Tomorrow’s Song or Auerbach’s mysteriously weird Prelude No15.
To a certain extent, especially at the start of the CD the tracks do tend to run into each other in a very ‘samey’ and non-descript manner but if you are know little about minimalism or are sceptical, as in truth I often am, this disc is a good introduction with none of the pieces outstaying its welcome; indeed I wish that some were even longer. Worth exploring.
Gary Higginson Contents Philip GLASS (b.1937)Truman Sleeps [1.57] Alessandra CELLETTI (b.1966)The Golden Fly Four [2.38] Max RICHTER (b. 1966)The Twins –Prague - for piano duet David LANG (b.1957)Light Moving-violin and piano [2.56] Peter MAXWELL-DAVIES (1934-2016)Snow Cloud, Over Lochan [1.04] Yan TIERSEN (b.1970)Comptine du’un Autre Eté L’aprčs-midi [2.08] Wim MERTENS (b.1953)Mains [3.02] Ólafur ARNALDS (b.1986)Tomorrow’s Song [2.49] John CAGE (1912-1992)Six Melodies: No 3 for violin and preparedpiano [1.57] György LIGETI (1923-2006)Musica ricercata: No 7 [3.49] Nils FRAHM (b.1982)Familiar [4.08] Richard David JAMES (b.1971)Avril 14th [2.00] Lera AUERBACH (b.1973)Prelude Op 46 No 15 for Violin and Piano [1.27] Georgs PELECIS (b.1947)Piece No 5 [2.43] Matteo SOMMACAL (b.1972)The Forgotten Strains –piano duet [5.04] Arvo PÂRT (b.1935)Speigel im Speigel for violin and piano [7.47]