Capricornia Nicholas Young www.nicholas-young.net There is a strange coherence about the music here, almost a direct line between three composers: Roy Agnew, Ferruccio Busoni and Elliott Carter. The three made deliberate efforts to cast aside the conventions of keyboard writing, exploring new ideas about melody, harmony, touch and colour.
That said, it is the Australian works here that excite me the most, two extended pieces by Agnew (1891-1944) — his Sonata Legend: Capricornia based on the 1938 tome by Xavier Herbert, and the Fantasie sonata. The intelligent argument advanced by Melbourne-based pianist Nicholas Young enhances Agnew’s reputation as the Australian Scriabin.
It is but one step from Agnew/Scriabin to the floating harmony of Busoni, not just the familiar Berceuse but also the capricious Chopin Variations, where Young milks every last drop of post-romantic intensity. Equally intense is the brittle brilliance of Carter’s early Piano Sonata (1946, revised 1982), already much recorded and remembered as central repertory for Australian pianists such as Carl Vine and Michael Kieran Harvey. Young’s performance emerges just as technically proficient, without the razzledazzle of others, which tend to deflect from the pervasive influence of Copland.
Indeed, such is its coherence of design and execution, Young’s entire program almost could be the dissertation of a doctoral scholar.
The recording, made in Salzburg in late 2014, could use a touch of room presence and the Model D Steinway sounds a little tired by the end of its workout. Not so this listener, who remained alert and excited throughout.
As this enterprising young pianist continues to peer into the darker corners of the piano repertoire, he will reward us with more discoveries, the bounty of which is already here on his debut recording. demonstrates the trio’s peak driving mode, as Hoiby’s bass pushes vibrantly through the busy complex of drums and piano and delivers a fastmoving solo of clever rhythmic emphasis.
Neame’s Manioc Maniac has nothing to do with the cassava (also known as manioc) but employs a good serving of racing, maniacal highenergy piano right from the start, as drums and bass rush it all along to an abrupt conclusion.
The opener, 67000MPH by Eger, is another high-speed outing, initially at least, with a smart piano and bass unison riff and Eger’s hyperactive cymbals, moving to a medium tempo later, again showing the trio’s almost telepathic communication.
Stillness, with its slow, mysterioso beginning, has all three players contributing, as the leader adds the arco’d bass, but it moves first into a striding rhythm and then into a hard-swinging passage riding to the conclusion.
Phronesis is at the world forefront of accomplished jazz piano trios, with high-calibre individuals combining perfectly on their originals in a decidedly Eurojazz style.