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Maëlstrom: Contemporary American Piano Music

Lynn Raley (Nimbus Alliance)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Maëlstrom: Contemporary American Piano Music
Works by Augusta Read Thomas, Charles Wuorinen, Wayne Peterson & Eric Moe
Lynn Raley (piano)
Nimbus Alliance NI 6360 54:20 mins

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Rich in colour and contrast, Maëlstrom is a welcome collection of contemporary piano music by four distinguished American composers. Thoughtfully compiled and skilfully performed by Lynn Raley, the album places challenging new works alongside more accessible and vibrant pieces, with all the selected works exploring ‘extra-musical’ ideas, be it evocations of Minnesotan tornadoes or Salman Rushdie’s beguiling children’s stories.

Two sets of etudes by Augusta Read Thomas open the collection and offer a diverse array of moods and colours. ‘On Twilight’, the fourth of Thomas’s Six Etudes for Piano (1996-2005) flutters and hiccups with captivating energy, while ‘Still Life’, the first of Thomas’s Eurythmy Etudes (2008), is a masterclass in musical stasis, celebrating the ‘resonance of the piano itself’. Wayne Peterson’s Four Preludes (2000) is tautly constructed, the opening ‘Maëlstrom’ a blistering account of the composer’s childhood experience of storms in Minnesota, while Wuorinen’s The Haroun Piano Book (2009) adapts the composer’s opera based on Salman Rushdie’s delightful Haroun and the Sea of Stories in six characterful miniatures.

The recording quality is a touch patchy at times, with the Wuorinen particularly feeling too close in certain tracks, but this is nonetheless a highly commendable release, offering rich insight into contemporary American music for piano.

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Kate Wakeling