Monday, November 12, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: The Piano-centric Edition

Udo Kasemets: Pythagoras Tree: Works for Piano. 1996. Hat Hut Recordings: hat[now]ART 113.

Stephen Clarke: piano
Timepiece (1964) version 1
Tangovariables on the word TANGO (1986)
Timepiece (1964) version 2
3/7 D'un Morceau en Forme de Poire (1995)
Feigenbaum Cascades (1995)
s Tree (1994)
Music of the First Eleven Primes (1995)

The Estonian composer Udo Kasemets has long been a curiosity for me. When I lived in Toronto he was an eccentric presence on the new music scene with his austere, mathematically inclined and John Cage inspired compositions. Pythagoras Tree is a quiet manifestation of the active mind of Kasemets. Clarke gives these piano pieces a steady, accurate presentation with many of the qualities that make Kasemets' music (and personality) so unique and rewarding to focus on. The brief glimpses of his music - and this disc is but one of those glimpses - suggest a larger body of subtle works offering similarly understated rewards.

NOW Orchestra & Marilyn Crispell: Pola. 2005. Victo: cd 097.

Marilyn Crispell: piano
Kate Hammett-Vaughn: voice
Bruce Freedman: alto saxophone
Graham Ord: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute
Saul Berson: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute
John Korsrud: trumpet, bugle
Kevin Elaschuk: trumpet, bugle
Rod Murray: trombone
Brad Muirhead: bass trombone
Ron Samworth: guitar
Paul Blaney: bass

Clyde Reed: bass
Dylan van der Schyff: drums
Coat Cooke: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute

A collaboration between the NOW Orchestra and Marilyn Crispell has enormous appeal in the HurdAudio pantheon. Though I can't help being a little disappointed that NOW's regular pianist wasn't included on this project as the creative heat generated between Marilyn Crispell and Paul Plimley would be something to hear. But the sonic shades found on Pola are far from disappointing as Coat Cooke's compositions provide a tremendous impetus for this heady, large ensemble experience. Crispell's "Yin Yang" is a fantastic translation of Crispell's sensibilities channeled through the NOW Orchestra. While Crispell's presence is clearly felt, the focal point of much of this music shifts freely throughout the ensemble in a sound that is more collaborative than concerto.

Dane Rudhyar: Works for Piano. 2004. Hat Hut Records: hat[now]ART 140.

Steffen Schleiermacher: piano
Granites (1929)
Three Paeans (1927)
Tetragrams 1st Serie (1920-27)
Third Pentagram (1926)

Exquisitely dissonant and deeply mystical piano pieces from the pioneer of transpersonal astrology. There's something majestic about the harmonic density of these short works that sets them apart and suggests a path yet to be fully explored. Schleiermacher does enormous justice to these difficult works (I used to play Third Pentagram - a fiendishly difficult piece). Dane Rudhyar's music is painfully overdue for some kind of revival as we re-asses the music of the early twentieth century.

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