Dillon: find works

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ALBUM TITLE: The Book of Elements, Vols 1-5
WORKS: find works
PERFORMER: Noriko Kawai (piano)
James Dillon burst on to the new music scene some 25 years ago as a composer of blisteringly aggressive energy and complexity. These days the aggression has receded, but the music still has an engagingly improvised air, and a tendency to pass back and forth between meditative stillness and sudden decorative skirls and sweeps. This new ‘book’ is a set of 27 piano pieces spread over five volumes which traces a line from small and many to large and few. The first is a set of 11 miniatures, the last a single big structure of 16 minutes. Each volume is correlated with one of the elements of earth, air, fire and water, plus the ‘void’ that lies beneath all of them, according to some oriental cosmologies. But this is no straight-line progression. The book teems with subtle cross-references, like the sudden reappearance in the last volume of the amazingly Debussian gesture that launched the whole cycle. There are other echoes, too, from Schumann, Bartók, even folk music and rock. It adds up to something rich, strange and utterly riveting. The recording is beautifully fine-grained and warm, and the performances from Noriko Kawai have just the right combination of cat-like energy and delicate inwardness. Ivan Hewett