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BOLCOM: Music for Two Pianos
Frescoes (arr. for 2 pianos) Interlude Recuerdos Sonata for Two Pianos in One Movement The Garden of Eden (excerpts)
Elizabeth Bergmann, piano / Marcel Bergmann, piano

William Bolcom (b. 1938) is well represented in the Naxos American Classics and this is another desirable addition to the catalogue. The selection (1963-94) spans a period of continual change. Earliest is the attractive 'total chromatic' Interlude , written whilst studying with Milhaud and Messiaen; the latest Latin American and Ragtime pieces from the '90s. Everything is expertly written and rewarding to hear under the fingers of the Bergmanns, in an up-to-date studio recording from Banff, January 2005.

My favourite (sample it if you can) is the Sonata in One Movement (actually three played continuously), a concert piece that should figure reglarly in the repertoire, and not only in America. Frescoes is a massive diptych, nearly half an hour of powerful programme music for the two pianists doubling on harmonium and harpsichord (described wrongly in the track list). A pity that room was not found in the booklet (page 5 is half empty) for something of Bolcom's detailed preface to War in Heaven and The Cave of Orcus , inspired by 'the grand vision of frescoe painting'; visual "eye music" with aleatoric improvisation, clusters, string plucking and unsynchronised playing (David Ciucevich).

See also reviews of Bolcom's large scale Blake cycle and of his songs.


© Peter Grahame Woolf