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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Music for Two Pianos

Capriccio 67 175



1. Variations on a Theme by Haydn (Brahms)
2. Variations for Two Pianos and Band (Gulda)
3. Volcano for Hire (Zawinul)
Friedrich Gulda, Joe Zawinul - Pianos
WDR Big Band Köln

Friedrich Gulda, who died in the year 2000, always had a two-way ticket between classical music and jazz.. Trained as a classical pianist, he acquired a liking for jazz by attending jazz clubs in New York. In 1988, he gave two concerts in Cologne with another Vienna-born pianist – Joe Zawinul – and the results are on this CD.

Gulda and Zawinul start by performing the two-piano version of Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn, also known as Variations on the St Anthony Chorale. This is played fairly straight, although the variations are preceded by an improvised introduction. Then the two are joined by the WDR Big Band of Cologne for Gulda’s Variations for Two Pianos and Band. The variations are based on an attractive waltz theme which is stated discreetly before the tempo quickens and the band enters. A slower passage features the two pianists in meditative mood, although the sleeve-note offers no help in identifying which is which – and it is difficult to decide how much is improvised. The orchestra enters again for a hustling passage which keeps the pianists’ fingers busy. Another shift into gentle lyricism precedes a showy finale. It is an interesting piece but, as in many examples of "Third Stream" music, the jazz element gets submerged beneath the composed passages.

The CD ends with Joe Zawinul’s Volcano for Hire, a short but fiery piece which allows the soloists to let their hair down and improvise with real gusto.

The disc contains barely 40 minutes of music, and half that time is taken up by the Brahms Variations which may not interest jazz fans particularly (although it is a beautiful piece). So the album will probably have a limited appeal to our readers.

Tony Augarde


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