The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Vin­cent Plush John McBeath

Capri­cor­nia Ni­cholas Young­ 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.

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