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Susan Tomes Recital

Susan Tomes has been a leading chamber music pianist for many years, first through the group Domus (which toured with a portable concert hall !) and latterly with the Florestan Trio, which is to disband next year.

A rare (possibly unique ?) solo recital, introduced from the platform by Susan, was not to be missed, especally as it included a Ligeti rarity and one of her own Schumann favourites, which I enjoyed greatly. I had some misgivings though about her "old-fashioned" account of the Mozart sonata, related to our recent immersion in Mozart on fortepiano from the likes of Bilson, Bezuidenhout & Sofronitzki.

Ligeti's 11 pieces of the early '50s (not performed for another two decades because of the Stalin tyranny affecting musicians) is an example of incremental organisation*, a method of organising contemporary music at the opposite pole to Schoenberg's twelve-tone serialism, ensuring that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another. That music, which avoids tonal centres or any key sense, may soon come to be thought of as a short-lived aberration of the mid-twentieth century. The problem is that 12-tone music (designedly) cannot really be "followed" by the ordinary listener, though its other beauties gradually permeate open-minded listeners' ears (q.v. Schoenberg's light domestic opera on DVD).

Ligeti's Musica ricercata** comprises eleven short pieces, the first entirely given to the single note A in all its possible permutations, ending with the striking of a second note D sfff - "to stab Stalin" - as Susan Tomes explained it. The other pieces limit themselves progressively to 2, then 3, 4 - - up to 11 notes, in a way that is relatively easy for listeners to apprehend; a marvellous example of richness based upon limitations.

Susan Tomes encored with a couple of Billy Mayerl pieces which she had recorded in the '80s and would have been familiar to elderly regulars at Conway Hall.

Peter Grahame Woolf

*Another example of incremental organisation is Fred Lerdahl's novel "spiral form" of expanding variations, each 3/2 the length of the previous one, a procedure which is "readily audible, at least in its early stages" and has generated some wonderful music including his string quartet cycle.

** Musica ricercata is recorded by Aimard (£5 from Amazon) and the score is on-line free at http://www.4shared.com/get/jFwoLkYO/Ligeti_Gyorgy_-_Musica_ricerca.html