Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Cage & Scarlatti

Scarlatti Sonata in D minor, K213
Cage Sonata No. 14
Scarlatti Sonata in D minor, K141
Cage Sonata No. 13
Scarlatti Sonata in E, K381
Cage Sonata No. 12
Scarlatti Sonata in B Minor, K87
Cage Sonata No.1
Scarlatti Sonata in F minor, K466
Cage Sonata No. 16
Scarlatti Sonata in E, K531
Cage Sonata No.11
Scarlatti Sonata in B minor, K27
Cage Sonata No. 5
Scarlatti Sonata in D, K492

David Greilsammer, piano & prepared piano

Hall Two, Kings Place, London 4 October 2010

A strangely solemn event, exactly one hour long, with no interval, not even a pause for late-comers (transport strikes in London...)

David Greilsammer is a very serious young man who allowed his fancy to reign freely in his chosen Scarlatti sonatas, one by one (no indication of his views, if any, about the Kirkpatrick pairings...). He varied them with careful, sometimes mannered, phrasing and extreme dynamcs, those "helped" with reverb; a sound engineer at the back assured me that was essential in the "dry" Hall Two at Kings Place - it isn't...

David revolved adeptly between two smallish Steinway grands on a circular piano stool, going back and forth from one composer to the other without a moment's gap. On his "Scarlatti" piano there was a little excess bass and slight distortion.

The Cage pieces were duly varied, tender and witty by turns. One had to take the "correctness" of the performances on trust; the hall was dark - it might have been good to have had scores projected, as did the Kreutzer Quartet there for Jim Aitchison in April?

The smallish audience was corralled into a square block of seats in the centre of the room; no way they could see the nuts and bolts etc which Greilsammer had laboriously fixed on the Cage-piano up on stage to the composer's precise instructions (a well placed mirror might have helped to see what was going on).

Sitting on 3-stacked chairs at the back (left there ready for last minute overflow) was disallowed. Formality ruled this occasion which, with a lighter touch, might have been fun and appealed to some younger experimental music afficionados? Why not have let listeners - there weren't too many - collect their own chairs and place them where they wanted; plenty of room for a more informal way to run that event? And better to have had the pianos at floor level with some seats up on the platform for better viewing?

KP Hall Two allows for great flexibility. And at least one break in the sequence would have given time to stretch and relax a little.

I assume another CD is on the way? It will be interesting whether it is competitive with Pletnev's marvellous Scarlatti on piano [Virgin Classics, a double CD £4 - £8 from Amazon] or, for Cage with Joanne MacGregor's Cage Perilous Night CD [Sound Circus]. Or, best of all, there is Margaret Leng Tan's CD/DVD [Mode Records 158]; each of those surely better value than this night out for which tickets were £9.50 + £1 for the programme that told you no more than the pianist's note on the K P website; no real information about the music for newcomers to it.

Peter Grahame Woolf