Minimalist Dream House

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Cage,Chalmin,Duckworth,Eno,Glass,James,Nyman,Riley,Seguinier et al
LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Minimalist Dream House
WORKS: Glass: Four Movements for Two Pianos; The Poet Acts; Cage: Experiences No. 1; Pärt: Hymn to a Great City; Skempton: Images; works by Nyman, Chalmin, Duckworth, Eno, James, Riley, Seguinier et al
PERFORMER: Katia & Marielle Labèque (piano); David Chalmin (vocals, guitars, bass, electronics), Raphael Sèguinier (drums, percussion, electronics), Nicola Tescari(keyboards, electronics)


This absorbing survey sees pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque reprise highlights from the 50 Years of Minimalism festival that premiered at London’s Kings Place in 2011. The title is taken from a series of New York concerts that took place in the 1960s in Yoko Ono’s loft (where else?), which ushered in new types of experimental music, including minimalism.

Several of the composers featured on this two-disc release aren’t usually classed as minimalists (Cage and Howard Skempton, for example), but the collection is a constellation; it draws connections between that movement and other styles, its stars as far-ranging as Michael Nyman, Arvo Pärt and Terry Riley.

It’s a cliché to say that the Labèque sisters’ top-notch ensemble playing is due to familial ties, yet there are few duos who have mastered their level of communication. The two-piano repertoire (predominantly CD one) sizzles; sparks fly during Nyman’s Water Dances, and the energy in Philip Glass’s Four Movements for Two Pianos is palpable. In fact, the latter’s propulsion causes some problems with the ostinato section, which is delivered with almost unbearable force. (Kudos to the piano technician who we imagine rushed in with foil blankets for the Steinways.)

However, the Labèques prove their versatility in Cage’s Experiences No. 1, demonstrating restraint, precision and beauty. Further evidence can be heard on the second disc, which includes arrangements of post-rock bonbons by Aphex Twin, Brian Eno and Radiohead (one of Katia’s favourite bands). The recording of William Duckworth’s The Time Curve Preludes is important for its rarity.


Claire Jackson