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CD Review

Conlon Nancarrow

Compositions 1935 to 1986

  • Pieces #1 &. 2 for Small Orchestra
  • Prelude and Blues
  • Sonatina (trans. Y. Mikhashoff)
  • String Quartet #1
  • Study #15 (trans. Y. Mikhashoff)
  • ¿Tango?
  • Toccata for Violin and Player Piano
  • Trio Movement
Rachel Evans, viola
Maria Kitsopoulos, cello
David Krakauer, clarinet
Celeste Marie Roy, bassoon
Joel Sachs, piano
Cheryl Seltzer, piano
Mark Steinberg, violin
Mia Wu, violin
Continuum/Joel Sachs
Naxos American Classics 8.559196 45mins
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from ArkivMusic.comFind it at CD Universe

Beethoven riposted to Schuppanzigh, who'd complained about the difficulty of Op. 95: "Do you think I worry about your wretched fiddle when the spirit speaks to me?" Conlon Nancarrow had to exile himself to Mexico, isolated with a player-piano, to realise his visions, and to wait for some forty years before technique caught up and live musicians were able to tackle his demandingly virtuosic and rhythmically complex music.

This release is as good an approach to this charming eccentric as any; I have a treasured memory of chatting with Nancarrow in the Almeida Festival towards the end his life. And of Yvar Mikhashoff, who probably invited Nancarrow there, and has transcribed some of his music played here by Joel Sachs & Cheryl Seltzer at four-handed piano.

One oddity; these 1989 recordings amount to 45 mins and Naxos has chosen not to reveal this, presumably because of market research into purchasers' greed? Only 45 mins for 5 !! No account of the thousands of hours taken to compose, perpare and record this cutting-edge music, mostly fast and of great complexity.

It is a roller-coaster, one of the most exilharating musical rides you'll ever take. Think of its duration as 1 hours, because I'm sure you'll want to play it twice, and it won't hurt your wallet so much.

The expert players of Continuum despatch all this deliciously fearsome music with gleeful relish, and for once I don't object to their back-cover portrait!

Copyright © 2005, Peter Grahame Woolf