McCabe: Upon Entering a Painting

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COMPOSERS: John McCabe
LABELS: Quartz
ALBUM TITLE: John McCabe: Upon Entering a Painting
WORKS: Upon entering a Painting; Two Scenes from Edward II; Basse Danse; Gaudi (Study No. 3); Sonata (Study No. 12)
PERFORMER: Joseph Tong, Waka Hasegawa (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 1206085

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You might expect a composer who is also a pianist to feel immediately at home in writing for the piano, but that was not the case with John McCabe. In his introduction to this lively programme, he admits that it took him years to feel comfortable about writing piano music.

But that reflection is unnecessarily modest, given the flair, imagination and sonic fireworks on display in these pieces dating from between 1970 and 2009. His idiom often strikes a balance between confrontational dissonance, engaging propulsion, and references that are well-informed and cleverly applied.

McCabe’s influences are refreshingly eclectic, ranging from Renaissance dance and pastiche – in the pieces from his Marlowe-inspired ballet, Edward II, for example – to Michael Tippett, by way of non-Western sounds such as gamelan. McCabe also looks to art and architecture: Upon Entering a Painting is inspired by Mark Rothko and seeks to evoke, through musical structure and pace, the way that art draws the observer inside its frame. It’s dedicated to Tong and Hasegawa, and, like all the performances here, shows them to be sympathetic, scintillating interpreters.

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Jessica Duchen