The Metier Division of Divine Art www.divine-art.co.uk always has something new to tempt adventurous listeners and so it is with a new release from this label. This new 2CD issue brings us Miniaturised Concertos on disc 1 and Maché on disc 2.
Pianist Kate Halsall conceived the idea of the Miniaturised Concerto as a new way to present two-piano repertoire in the context of the avant-garde, rock-fusion and electronic music of today. The result is five major 'concertos' and four works in the style of Maché or collages, medleys of new works by several composers.
This is a totally unique sound experience which fuses classical art-music with the popular idioms and new techniques of performance and recording, involving many of Britain's top names in the worlds of DJ-ing, electronics and sound design.
The new recordings are supported by Arts Council England www.artscouncil.org.uk , the Britten-Pears Foundation www.brittenpears.org and the RVW Trust www.rvwtrust.org.uk .
The performers on these two discs are Kate Halsall (pianos, keyboards) https://katehalsall.co.uk , Jeremy Barnett (percussion) www.jeremybarnett.net , Joel Bell (electric guitar) www.joelbell.co.uk , Martin Butler (piano, keyboard) www.sussex.ac.uk/profiles/403 , Leo Chadburn (piano, voice) www.simonbookish.com , Marjolaine Charbin (piano), Ruth Goller (electric bass) http://ruthgoller.com , Duncan MacLeod (electronics) www.kent.ac.uk/smfa/staff/staff-profiles/musicandaudio/2Macleod.html , Robert Millett (percussion) https://uk.linkedin.com/in/robert-millett-2a33a49 , Fumiko Miyachi (piano) https://fumikomiyachi.com , Andrew Poppy (keyboards) www.andrewpoppy.co.uk , Lucy Shaw (upright bass) www.lucyshaw.co.uk , Delia Stevens (Percussion) www.deliastevens.com , Rachael Ueckermann (piano) https://rachaelueckermann.wordpress.com , James Waterworth (electronics) https://twitter.com/jamesmyr?lang=en-gb and ensemble, Dark Inventions www.darkinventions.co.uk
The first of the Miniaturised Concertos is Andrew Poppy’s Swimming with the Stone Book for pianos, keyboard, electric guitars, bass and percussion. Poppy creates some distinctive sounds with a repeated yet subtly developing theme, achieving a fluidity in the lighter and heavier textures that run through the music. There is vibrancy here, with a myriad of colours, minimalist yet allowing some very fine ideas to rise over the repeated rhythmic theme. This composer finds dissonances and a variety of harmonies and textures with many subtle details. Later there is a distinctive lighter texture for pianos and keyboard before the music finds a richer texture with resonant bass. There are pauses in the insistent, rhythmic theme before drums, keyboard and basses introduce a heavy pounding rhythm to which the electric guitar brings the theme with the pianos joining to lead to a sudden end.
The pianos bring scattered staccato chords to introduce Naomi Pinnock’s Always again for pianos and percussion, slowly revealing a repeated rhythmic idea. Pianists, Kate Halsall and Fumiko Miyachi provide terrific accuracy through subtly shifting textures before there is a sudden silence with hushed percussion taps. The two pianists start the theme again, developing through continually changing harmonies, always keeping a strident touch. Soon there are more hushed rhythmic tapings before the pianos continue in a changed rhythm, still insistent and strident, though finding more of a depth of sound. There are many varied rhythms and textures around the theme with these two pianists achieving some terrific results. A deep rippling phrase leads into a gentle section as the theme is quietly taken forward with sudden little outbursts from the pianos with hesitant, rhythmic catches, these players finding a terrific continuity. A light, delicate theme arrives at the higher end of the keyboards before these pianists continue to find many varied rhythms, dynamics and tempi. There are more percussion taps before pianos resume their delicate phrases to the coda.
The ensemble, Dark Inventions join pianists Kate Halsall and Fumiko Miyachi for Philip Cashian’s Furor opening with a lively rhythmic theme which they subject to variations using a variety of woodwind instruments and percussion with the pianos adding colour and texture. Indeed Cashian finds many fine colours and textures from his skilful use of instrumental combinations in this repetitive, rhythmic theme. Soon there is a longer held line as strings join, still with an offset rhythmic line underneath. The pianos ripple through the woodwind before the strings intervene bringing lovely colour and variety. Later there is a short, slower section where flute and violin add an unusual texture. Towards the end the pianos bring a slow meditative section, slowly gaining in rich textures. The flute and violin enter to alternate with the pianos before the whole ensemble joins to bring about the coda.
Colin Riley’s Hanging in the Balance for pianos and electronics explores bringing objects to life by stimulating them to resonate along with the music played by the pianos. The piano music is sent by transducers to the skins and working parts of various instruments, here bass drum, snare drum, hi-hat and zither, placed around the stage and made to buzz, rattle and shake. In three parts a two note motif opens Ritual Groove before the pianos, together with percussion like sounds, continue. A strangely diffused sound is created as the instruments appear to reflect off each other. Hushed gravelly textures appear in the distance and deep drum sounds appear as the pianos develop the theme more broadly. There are jazz influenced harmonies from the pianos before the music becomes faster and more dramatic. Hi-hat and drums become more clear and prominent as this more leisurely section proceeds before falling quieter and slower with tentative pianos and percussion trying to find a forward flow but failing.
The theme is slowly and tentatively moved forward and into the second part, Break, Tackle, and Bowl which brings a fast moving theme sounding through the percussion instruments to which the pianos own sound can be heard. There are really vibrant textures with terrific rhythms, with some fine colours as well as varied rhythms and tempo. These pianists provide some terrific pin point accuracy before the music falls quietly into the final part, Scent of an Ending where a little piano motif runs through a hazy, shimmering, resonant percussion layer. Slowly the pianos find a theme, creating a rather intoxicating atmosphere with a descending piano motif over hazy, shimmering electronically shaped percussion, falling quieter with lovely resonating electronic sounds that fade in the coda.
The second disc in this 2 CD set brings the four works in the style of Maché or collages, medleys of new works by several composers.
Maché 1 includes works by Duncan MacLeod, Simon VIncent, Joel Bell and Ryoko Akama and features pianists Kate Halsall, Fumiko Miyachi and Martin Butler, guitarist, Joel Bell and electronics from Duncan MacLeod and Simon Vincent. A piano opens with a little idea that is repeated and developed through some lovely electronically conceived passages. Two pianos take the theme as it is echoed around, finding an almost eastern sound quality, slowly adding a ‘chorus’ of electronic sound that overtakes the pianos. The music rises to an impressive, sonorous level, creating a remarkable sound through which one can imagine a myriad of ideas - at one point I imagined a terrific peal of bells – through deeper resonances as the music falls back, with the pianos bringing firm resonant chords. A sharper incisive line appears around which the pianos bring sudden faster phrases. There are wiry textures; an electric guitar is heard weaving around a melody before the pianos sound through a longer held electric guitar line. The music moves through a haze of electronic sound with the pianos picking out the theme to fade in the coda.
Maché 2 takes Dominic Murcott’s Time and Place to open with a rush of sound through which voices and footsteps, recorded at Chatham Historic Dockyard, can be heard, out of which percussion like sounds emanate. There are occasional piano phrases before the pianos take centre stage as the background fades away, bringing a repeated rhythmic motif. There are varied textures as the rhythm slows and the background sounds re-appear. The pianos fade for a sudden ending.
Maché 3: includes works by Leo Chadburn, Timo Tuhkanen, Emma-Ruth Richards, Matthew Rowan and Richard Perks. It opens with a voice over piano phrases before slowly making its way through subtly shifting harmonies. Electronics take us into a pulsating layer over which the piano adds a texture before being slowly varied through some slow moving bars with electronic pulsating tones. The voice returns adding descriptive words over piano chords before the pianos trickle notes through a haze of gentle sound. Later two voices appear over the pianos in longer sentences before a fine layer of piano textures develop. The sound of an out of tune piano is heard against a richer piano line as the voices continue, slowly finding a rather languid piano melody before ending quietly.
Maché 4: includes works by Richard Glover, Helen Papaioannou, Ruta Vitkauskaite, Rowland Sutherland, Andrew Morgan, Fumiko Miyachi and Devon Tipp. The music opens quietly with pianos playing a series of shifting chords, soon joined by resonant piano crashes and tinkling phrases before picking up a pace in a rhythmic theme. The music moves through a strange, electronic resonant passage bringing a slower plodding tempo before increasing to a greater flow with a faster piano theme over more rhythmic ideas. A resonating keyboard crash brings the end.
These are fascinating works that bring a myriad of unusual textures, colours and sonorities allowing the imagination to expand. I cannot imagine the performances being bettered. Pianists, Kate Halsall and Fumiko Miyachi deserve a special mention as the backbone of many of these performances. They are well recorded at various venues and there are useful booklet notes from the composers of the Miniaturised Concertos as well as brief notes on the Maché.