Collection: in Real Time

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Berio,Goehr,Henze,Kirchner,Knussen,Lieberson
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Bagatelles; Fantasy Pieces; Garland; Variations; Piece for Peter; … in real time I; Feuerklavier; Interlude; Les yeux clos II
PERFORMER: Peter Serkin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68189 2

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Can a performer make a composition sound better than it really is? Peter Serkin is one who surely can. He’s a marvellous pianist, and plays everything on this disc with an uncanny sensitivity to tone, nuance and overall shaping. He is also an enthusiastic champion of living composers. All these nine works were written for Serkin, seven for a 1989-90 recital tour consisting entirely of specially commissioned compositions. Other pieces by Peter Lieberson frame the present collection, while the work he wrote for the tour occupies the central position; this American composer has long been the pianist’s close friend. Breeze of Delight, from Lieberson’s Fantasy Pieces, works minor miracles with the sorts of gestures and harmonic language familiar from John Ireland. Other compositions – including some of Lieberson’s – still end up seeming more the result of craft and occasionally remarkable ingenuity exacted on tired, if generally dissonant, materials and borrowed forms than the product of compulsive invention: Oliver Knussen’s Variations, for example, or Alexander Goehr’s … in real time I, which gives the disc its title. Leon Kirchner’s often turbulent, cunning Interlude suggests the hand of an underrated master. But even in this case, the responsibility for turning prose into poetry could, as elsewhere, have really been Serkin’s astonishing talent. Keith Potter