WORKS: Grand Pianola Music; Short Ride in a Fast Machine; Are You Experienced?; Under Orpheus
PERFORMER: Soloists; Netherlands Wind Ensemble/Stephen Mosko
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9363 DDD
The Fifties-style sleeve graphics miss the point of the music by at least two generations, and so does Chandos’s predictably conservative sound, offering more warmth and bloom than the definition and brilliance suitable to this energetic music. The Dutch band, though versatile, has a distinctive old-world timbre that it never loses, even when it is admirably hard-driving. But neither sight nor sound is really a problem; just close your eyes and turn up the volume.
The music here includes some of the more disarmingly flamboyant American music of the Eighties: bold, unsubtle, rhythmically alluring and up-to-the-minute postmodern. John Adams’s once controversial Grand Pianola Music is a confrontation between chugging minimalism and big Romantic harmonic and melodic gestures; David Lang’s Are You Experienced? is a conjoining of a kind of post-minimalist structuralism and Jimi Hendrix, with a surrealistic narration thrown in for further disorientation. Both are works previously recorded (Pianola twice before), but Mosko’s performances are distinctive for their mesmerising spirit and their ravishing playing.
As for the smaller pieces, Adams’s exceedingly popular fanfare, Short Ride, is heard in an unfamiliar band arrangement which allows Mosko, who emphasises its unnerving syncopation, to make it sound even sassier than usual; Lang’s Under Orpheus is also presented in a new version, in which punchy winds intensify the original moody, luminous piece for two pianos. And if, by the way, you don’t yet know the 37-year-old Lang, whose opera Modern Painters is premiered this summer by the Santa Fe Opera, this disc provides an excellent introduction. Mark Swed