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Monday, April 11, 2005
David's Picks of the Week: 20th Century Piano Extravaganza
N.B. My rating system goes from 0 to 11: 0 being God-awful, 11 being God-wonderful. Enjoy!

Naxos: Lukas Foss, Complete Works for Solo Piano

Fossís solo piano works span over fifty years and almost as many styles. On this CD we find jazz, Broadway, folk, neo-classicism, serialism, and more Ė all couched in a familiarly pianistic idiom. The music alternates between the lame and the lovely Ė sometimes within the same piece. Fortunately the pianist Scott Dunn is consistently terrific as is the recording quality. Rating: 7.


Delphian: Complete Solo Piano Works, Kenneth Leighton (3CDs)

Concert pianists of a relatively un-adventuresome bent could do worse than to check out Kenneth Leightonís work. Leighton (1929-1988) was an English composer who taught for years at the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford. While his music can be a bit nondescript, he nonetheless develops his ideas satisfactorily and offers pianists ample opportunities show off their fingers and musicality Ė as Angela Brownridge does here. Parts of "Conflicts (Fantasy on Two Themes) Op.51" are stunning. Rating: 8.


Centrediscs: Canadian Composers Portraits, Ann Southam (3CDs)

The first of this three-CD portrait of Ann Southam (b.1937) is an audio documentary featuring some very adoring fans. The second two CDs feature pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico weaving through Southamís three magisterial sets of pieces collectively entitled "Rivers." Southam is a minimalist, but her music resists all but the most superficial comparisons with Reich, Glass, and the rest: she manages to be process-oriented and classical at the same time. Watch out for tone rows. Rating: 9.


North/South Recordings: Reminiscences and Reflections, Larry Bell

It may be a set of prelude and fugues, but thereís nothing academic about our own Larry Bellís new CD. Good humor and an innocent American lyricism prevail. Beyond arranging the pairs chromatically, Bell wisely decides not to chase Bach (his fugues are more Beethovenian). With the help of pianist Jonathan Bass, Bell, through song and dance, gives us a very different kind of well-tempered clavier. The Prelude and Fugue in E is a highlight. Rating: 8.


Cold Blue Music: Long Night, Kyle Gann

The bard of bloggers (get it?) serves up this half-hour post-minimal opus for three pianos. Gannís piece is hip in a lonely, meandering-through-city-streets kind of way. Itís not all atmosphere though: throughout the work I was convinced I was hearing melodies, yet, when I tried to fix my ear on them, they kept slipping through my hearing like water through my hands. In other words, "Long Night" is subtle work, even if itís a bit Zen for my taste. Rating: 8.

 



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