Concerti III: The GrauSchumacher Piano Duo perform works by Poulenc, C McPhee and J Adams

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COMPOSERS: C McPhee,J Adams,Poulenc
LABELS: Neos
ALBUM TITLE: Concerti III: J Adams * C Mcphee * Poulenc
WORKS: Poulenc: Concerto for Two Pianos; C McPhee: Tabuh-Tabuhan; John Adams: Grand Pianola Music
PERFORMER: GrauSchumacher Piano Duo; Trio Mediaeval; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Brad Lubman
CATALOGUE NO: NEOS 21703

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The music of Bali has long captured the imagination of Western composers. The whirling sound of gamelan – an ensemble comprised primarily of gongs and metallophones – has, since its arrival on European shores, inspired numerous works with its insistent rhythm and dizzying melodic patterns. This splendid disc offers three works which directly or indirectly owe something to Balinese gamelan. Poulenc’s Double Concerto in D minor (1932) bristles with wit and fire, referencing everything from Mozart to Spanish paso doble alongside a glistening evocation of Balinese gamelan, as heard by Poulenc at the 1931 Paris Colonial Exhibition. The GrauSchumacher Piano Duo perform with great spirit and charisma alongside the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, here on sparkling form.

Canadian composer Colin McPhee lived in Bali for many years, and introduced Benjamin Britten to Balinese music. His own Tabuh-Tabuhan (1936) conjures the sound of gamelan through the symphony orchestra. The work is at once questionable in its musicological ethics and hypnotically engaging, and this sure-footed performance captures all the colour and verve of McPhee’s flawed masterpiece.

Gamelan was a key influence in the emergence of minimalism and the disc aptly closes with John Adams’s Grand Pianola Music (1982), a mesmerising work sparked by the composer’s dream of zooming along the interstate and being passed by two slick black limousines that morphed into rumbling Steinways. While Adams does not draw explicitly on Balinese music, his luscious brand of post-minimalism certainly chimes with the swirling configurations of gamelan.

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Kate Wakeling