A special eight-page section focusing on recent recordings from the US and Canada
Granlund . Tajčević ‘Con luence – Balkan Dances & Tango nuevo’ Granlund Maureena. Sollozo perpetuoa . Tango du joli printemps, after Poulenca. TangoNometríaa. Tango peregrinoa. TangoValsa Tajčević Seven Balkan Dances a Zachary Carrettin vn Mina Gajić pf Sono Luminus F DSL92256 (39’ • DDD)
The idea of bringing together Eastern European folk dances and tango nuevo is a sound one. Astor Piazzolla, tango nuevo’s founding father, surely heard similar folk dances as a kid growing up in New York City’s East Village, and one can discern their echoes – however faint – in his music. On this brief programme, violinist Zachary Carrettin and pianist Mina Gajic´ interweave a set of Seven Balkan Dances for solo piano by Serbian composer Marko Taj∂evic´ (1900-84) with a halfdozen contemporary takes on tango nuevo by Ray Granlund (b1975).
Taj∂evic´’s set reminds me of Bartók’s well-known Romanian Folk Dances, although I find Taj∂evic´’s dances somewhat less pithy as well as less strikingly memorable. That said, they’re charming enough and Gajic´ imbues them with plenty of colour and character. I have mixed feelings about Granlund’s tangos, however. He’s clever enough, certainly. TangoNometría, for example, employs metres unusual for a tango, such as 5/8 and 5/4, which give the music a playful unpredictability, and yet even when the metric ground is shifting like quicksand, he manages to project an unwavering lyricism. He has a good ear for piquant harmony, too, and his peculiar harmonic sensibility means that these tangos are no slavish retreads of Piazzolla as one hears in so much modern tango nuevo.
The trouble, I think, is that as fertile as Granlund’s invention can be, I felt my mind wandering towards the end of nearly every tango. If these five- or six-minute works were a minute or two shorter, I believe they’d make a much stronger impression. Carrettin and Gajic´ play them all with gusto, in any case, so the programme is enjoyable enough. And, despite my criticisms, Granlund demonstrates that there’s still plenty of life left in tango nuevo, even three decades after Piazzolla’s death. Andrew Farach-Colton
Schubert Piano Sonatas – No 17, D850; No 21, D960 Anne-Marie McDermott pf Bridge F (two discs for the price of one) BRIDGE9550 (83’ • DDD)
In the opening measures of the D major Sonata, D850, Anne-Marie
McDermott throws down the proverbial gauntlet with a power and thrust that accurately signifies the hurling momentum, kinetic energy and firmly focused musical engagement to come. Phrases sweep over the bar lines, delineated by subtle rhythmic inflections that recall Artur Schnabel’s tension-filled editorialising. By contrast, McDermott makes the slow movement’s expressive points through careful scaling of dynamics and assertive left-hand presence. Her Scherzo may not be the most supple around (I lean towards the lighter touch of Richard Goode, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Mitsuko Uchida), yet she imparts a distinct timbral character upon each theme. A slight self-awareness permeates the pianist’s clipped articulation and tapered phrase-endings in the Rondo, while her textually faithful minor-key episode holds the music’s turbulence in check. However, these are tiny quibbles in the light of McDermott’s fierce concentration and intelligent musicianship. McDermott manages to personalise the B flat Sonata, D960, without drawing more attention to herself than to Schubert. She avoids the micromanagement bug that infected the recent Simone Dinnerstein, Krystian Zimerman, Khatia Buniatishvili and Alexander Lonquich traversals. The first movement’s long exposition (with repeat intact) ebbs, flows and sings with a controlled flexibility that illuminates the music’s narrative discourse in every moment. Many pianists keep the Adagio’s haunting left-hand ostinato murmuring in the background. McDermott’s semidétaché treatment, however, transforms this gesture into an animated and arguably flippant foil to the main cantabile’s melancholy.
The pianist’s conservatively paced Scherzo allows for numerous felicities of voicing, while the Trio’s ample leeway keeps one guessing as to how she will articulate the syncopated bass notes. Some may feel her finale held back and unduly pondered. To my ears, her tiny hesitancies in the main theme provide dramatic contrast to the foreboding unison G naturals. Furthermore, McDermott’s pliable, exploratory phrasing of the second theme gives no hint of the devastatingly intense minor-key episode to follow. The coda is forceful, if somewhat reined in; I miss the joyful abandon others bring to this passage. Overall, Leon Fleisher’s heartfelt simplicity remains referenceworthy, alongside the poetically eloquent Perahia, Lupu, Andsnes, Kovacevich and Pollini (or Goode and Curzon if you don’t need the repeat). Still, it’s clear that McDermott has pondered over and lived with these two sonatas, and has ultimately made them her own. Jed Distler
Soper Two Dialogues. The Fragments of Parmenides. So Dawn Chromatically Descends to Day. The Understanding of All Things Kate Soper voice/pf/ ixed media with Sam Pluta elecs New Focus F FCR322 (52’ • DDD)
When the line ‘Here is a central source of musical emotion’ sounds like poetry,
you’ve fallen under the spell of composer/ pianist/soprano Kate Soper’s unblinking exploration with Wet Ink’s electronics virtuoso Sam Pluta of the boundaries between words and music, between hearing and silence. ‘I love leaping off the plane of gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE MAY 2022 I