The Transcendentalist

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Cage,Scriabin,Wollschleger and Feldman
LABELS: Heresy Records
ALBUM TITLE: The Transcendentalist
WORKS: Works by Scriabin, Cage, Wollschleger and Feldman
PERFORMER: Ivan Ilić (piano)

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Some months ago, David Greilsammer startlingly juxtaposed John Cage and Domenico Scarlatti in a CD piano recital (on Sony), forcing us to listen to both with new ears. Here Serbian-American Ivan Ilic´ presents Cage (before his ‘chance music’ phase) rubbing against the limpid chromatics of Scriabin, a composer closer to home. The jostling doesn’t bring the same result, as all these pieces drift along in a transcendental vein, the sustaining pedal regularly pressed, and with no firm edges.

For those susceptible, bodies and souls might be uplifted the furthest in the 22 minutes of Palais de Mari by Cage’s friend Morton Feldman – a late rotating sound sculpture of scrunched chords and dangling gestures, and the most abstract piece on the disc. Ilic´’s subtlety of touch comes into its own here, though he’s also impressive in the limpid flow of Scriabin’s Op. 16 No. 1, first of the five Preludes included.

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The one contemporary novelty is last year’s Music Without Metaphor by the American Scott Wollschleger, which mulls over repeated patterns and seems capable of lasting forever. Happily it doesn’t, though little relief is offered by the harmonics of its bedfellow, Scriabin’s Rêverie, sounding particularly cheesy in context. Another curiosity is Heresy Records’ booklet design, which features ants scuttling over selected pages: one more quirk in a CD likely to interest the adventurous, but fully satisfy not very many. Geoff Brown