Water

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Albeniz,Berio,Debussy,Faure,JanáΩek,Liszt and Sawhney,Ravel,Takemitsu
LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Water
WORKS: Works by Albéniz, Takemitsu, Ravel, Berio, Debussy, Fauré, JanáΩek, Liszt and Sawhney
PERFORMER: Hélène Grimaud (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DG 479 5268

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The earth is largely made of water, and so are we; water is merciless and miraculous; it’s nature’s architect, and it’s also nature’s composer. Such are the thoughts – plus a great many more in the same vein – with which Hélène Grimaud introduces her new album. This certainly fits with her parallel career as a conservationist: her wolf sanctuary was a heroically successful project, and as she herself has observed, that identification with untamed nature played a key part in the unlocking of her musical spirit.

Here, eight pieces by major composers are interspersed with ‘transitions’ by Nitin Sawhney, each lasting little more than a minute. Berio’s Wasserklavier and Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II are both intriguingly suggestive, but more weight is put on Fauré’s Barcarolle No. 5, Albeniz’s Almeria, JanáΩek’s In the Mists No. 1, and Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie than they can reasonably bear, well though Grimaud plays them. Meanwhile Sawhney – ‘keyboard, guitar, and programming’ – provides little soundscapes of sampled instrumental and vocal effects: as a result the listener’s ear is jerked in and out of focus, with the sound alternating between music in which every note matters, and music which is mere anodyne noodling. There may be people who find listening to this a satisfactory way of spending an hour, but it doesn’t float my boat.

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Michael Church