Monday, December 03, 2012

Jürg Frey - Piano Music (R. Andrew Lee) (Irritable Hedgehog)

Lee, who I've previously encountered performing Tom Johnson's "An Hour for Piano", ventures more directly into the Wandelweiser fields with these two compositions for solo piano by Frey, "Klavierstück 2" and "Les tréfonds inexplorés des signes pour piano (24-35)". They manifest a certain kind of minimalism that floats somewhere beyond Gurdjieff, nestles in obscure, never-visited corners of Satie and hyper-distills the early work of Glass, perhaps via an extremely fine sieve woven by the aforementioned Johnson.

"Klavierstück 2" opens with somber, low chords, allowed to toll and hang for several seconds each, repeated for a couple of minutes before being replaced by brighter, even sprightly higher ones, brilliant but with a sour edge, iterated more quickly. The fine liners by William Robin make the claim (not contested by me) that this perfect fourth is sounded 468 times. Necessarily, even if not consciously attempted, there's a tiny amount of variation in touch and certainly int he manner in which the notes weave, smoke-like, in the air between the strings and the microphone. It's wonderfully mesmerizing, a really exquisite balance between the stringent and the subtly complex. It's bookended at first by four like chords a bit higher than the first, but just when you think you've ascertained the structure a virtual melody, brief and spare though it may be, appears, ethereal, Messiaenic. A lovely, surprisingly emotional coda to a rigorously ecstatic work.

"Les tréfonds inexplorés des signes pour piano (24-35)" comprises twelve sections ranging from about two to eight minutes in length, the entire piece running over 47. Robin describes them as vignettes, not precisely related but akin. I find myself thinking of pieces from Satie's Rosicrucian period, the Ogives and other "gothic" works, often somber and brooding. The pace, depth and orientation of the notes varies, from repeated chords at regular intervals, higher or lower, faster or slower to leisurely descending scales embedded within static frames to sets of notes that are almost melodies. I tend to have an imagistic reaction first (old church interiors, doubtless hastened in via Satie) then that's swiftly subsumed by the bath of sonics, of the rich, wet chords, these globules of sound.

Lee, to his great credit in music like this, virtually disappears. There's certainly wonderful thought, consideration and decision making at play here, but the music seems to exist apart form a performer, a fine thing.

And a fine and beautiful recording, a necessary addition for the collection of any self-repsecting Wandelweiserian.

Irritable hedgehog

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