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"Modern Mystics"
IAN PACE - Piano

Great Hall, King's College, The Strand
Friday 24th January, 6:00 and 7:45 pm

6:00 pm:
CLAUDE DEBUSSY - Cloches à travers les feuilles; Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut
MARK R. TAYLOR - final music
JAMES DILLON - The Book of Elements Volume 2 *
FRANCISCO GUERRERO - Op. 1 Manual
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

7:45 pm:
ALEXANDER SCRIABIN - Sonata No. 10
HORATIU RADULESCU - Sonata No. 2 "being and non-being create each other"**
BÉLA BARTÓK - Romanian Christmas Carols Book 2
HORATIU RADULESCU - Sonata No. 4 "like a well ... older than God"*
*** _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

HORATIU RADULESCU - Sonata No. 1 "cradle to abysses"
BÉLA BARTÓK - Romanian Christmas Carols Book 1
HORATIU RADULESCU - Sonata No. 3 "you will endure forever"**

'We owe an inestimable debt to Ian Pace...whose concentration, virtuosity and stamina give a new meaning to transcendental pianism.' - (PGW in Seen&Heard re London recital June 2002)

Ian Pace's marathon piano recitals in London colleges and academies of music have become legendary, and are essential listening commitments for anyone who wants to know what is going on at the cutting edge of European writing for the instrument. Most recently he had given the Messiaen's Vingt Regards complete, and one remembers Michael Finnissy's enormous five-hour The History of Photography in Sound at The Royal Academy, a better London venue for large scale piano music than King's College.

This latest was a typical Ian Pace triple-decker and he coped as well as it was reasonable to expect with a programme which must have been daunting for even so fluent a sight-reader to learn, quite apart from questions of stamina for both performer and listeners. This month's pioneering recital, which attracted a good sized audience of cognoscenti to King's College, centred upon the four piano sonatas of the Romanian composer Horatiu Radulescu, founding father of musique spectrale.

The Debussy and Scriabin performances were clear, but unremarkable in such familiar and competitive repertoire - and in a concert which risked being overlong for some listeners. Most extreme, and riveting to hear, was the influential Spanish composer and teacher Francisco Guerrero's wild Op. 1 Manual. The King's College Bosendorfer survived Pace's onslaught - just! A complete original, and also featured by Halbreich at the Gulbenkian Festival in Portugal, I would urge listeners with strong constitutions (all who enjoy Varese and Xenakis) to seek out the Arditti Quartet recording of Guerrero's masterly Zayin, reviewed in 2000, and haunting me ever since.

Bartok's Roumanian Carols, a welcome discovery for many of us and distinctly different from the more familiar Hungarian pieces, earned their place int Ian Pace's scheme because of an important contextual significance. Radulescu had worked some of them into the fourth of his piano sonatas, which I have found the most accessible, and many more of the Christmas Songs into the extraordinary polyphonic, heterophonic collage which comprises the third movement of his vast, sprawling Piano Concerto Quest (The Gate;The Second Sound - The Sacred; Ancestor's Chants; The Origin). That movement was the only one which I could begin to appreciate, and anyone who enjoys the wonderful webs of sound Ligeti spins might respond to it.

Radulescu titles his pieces and movements extravagantly, with mystical and spiritual preoccupations keeping company with the most abstruse mathematics. I will probably never resolve mixed reactions to this composer, whom I encountered in extenso in Portugal at Harry Halbreich's Salon des Refusés in Lisbon, 2001. Even more bizarre that the Piano Concerto is Radulescu's String Quartet No. 4 "infinite to be cannot be infinite, infinite anti-be could be infinite" (1976-87). Premiered in London, and recorded at Ircam by the indispensable Arditti's with 8 pre-recorded quartets surrounding the live players and the audience - I could make nothing of it whatsoever, nor of the arcane commentary includedl!

Dillon's The Book of Elements (Volume 2) seemed less radical (is he maturing with another decade behind him?) than Spleen, an invigorating and compelling key work of 20 years back, included in Ortwin Sturmer's brilliant Ars Musici CD, together with Radulescu's Fourth Sonata Op.92, which he premiered, and two studies by Eric Tanguy, a pupil of Radulescu, Malec and Grisey - a good pedigree. Throughout this superb studio recording, characterized as 'pursuing a quest towards mythical sources, what Radulescu calls 'Music…Older than Music' (q.v. Pace's Modern Mystics title for his recital), one benefits listening at home with the completely silent background, which bring out all the resonances within the piano, difficult in King's College and most other London venues.

Peter Grahame Woolf


CDs to explore:

Ortwin Stürmer (piano) Tanguy, Radulescu, Rzewski, Sharman, Dillon
Ars Musici AM 1148-2

Radulescu Piano Concerto (Ortwin Stürmer with RSO Frankfurt/Zagrosek)
CPO 999 589-2

Radulescu String Quartet No 4 Op. 33 for nine string quartets
DAAD-ed. RZ 4002

Radulescu cello sonata L'Exil Interieur (1997) Catherine Marie Tunnell
available from lucero@bluewin.ch

Guerrero Zayin
Almaviva DS-0127 (discovery records)

Further details about Ian Pace's recordings
Enquiries to Julia Haferkorn

 

© Peter Grahame Woolf