COMPOSERS: Knussen,Lieberson,Messiaen,Takemitsu & Wuorinen,Webern,Wolpe
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Ocean That Has No West and No East
PERFORMER: Peter Serkin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7450-2
Peter Serkin has a fondness for recital programmes of jewel-like miniatures just like this disc. No other great pianist of our time can match his appetite for new music, which he plays with the same passion and musical perception he brings to the 18th- and 19th-century classics. This selection mingles works written for him – by Takemitsu, Knussen, Lieberson and Wuorinen – with masterpieces from earlier generations of 20th-century composers.
Serkin’s cool, luminous unfolding of Webern’s Variations is at the opposite pole to the hedonistic abandon of his account of Cantéyodjayâ, in some ways the most remarkable of all Messiaen’s piano works, while the sequence of pieces by Stefan Wolpe, in which constructivist severity is offset by the sheer rhythmic exuberance of the writing, are given performances of missionary intensity; when Wolpe is played like this he emerges as an authentically great composer. The little elegiac miniatures by Takemitsu, Knussen and Lieberson – the second of the Rain Tree Sketches in memory of Messiaen, Bell Tree Sketch and The Ocean that has no East and no West tributes to Takemitsu himself – have perfectly characterised intensity, flecked with delicate colours, while both Lieberson’s Fantasy and Wuorinen’s Bagatelle are bigger-boned pieces which Serkin maps with unswerving certainty. A wonderful disc. Andrew Clements