Britain's Dame Gillian Weir is one of the world's foremost musical artists. Her unique career as an internationally acclaimed concert organist, performing worldwide at the great festivals and with leading orchestras and conductors, has established her as a distinguished musician. She is known for her virtuosity, integrity and outstanding musicianship, which combined with a notable personal charisma, have placed her in the forefront of her profession and won her the admiration of audiences and critics alike.
Combining works by Debussy and Poulenc on an album may, to some, seem a bit ironic seeing as at one point, the latter railed against the music of the former. Poulenc was later to change his tune, though, and eventually became one of Debussy's most ardent admirers. The two were greatly responsible for a new direction in French music, which, ironically, required both of them to look to composers of the past for inspiration.
No prizes for predicting that this Liszt B minor Sonata is technically flawless and beautifully structured. What may come as more of a shock (though not to those who have followed Pollini's career closely) is its sheer passion. To say that he plays as if his life depended on it is an understatement, and those who regularly accuse him of coolness should sit down in a quiet room with this recording, a decent hi-fi system and a large plateful of their own words. The opening creates a sense of coiled expectancy, without recourse to a mannered delivery such as Brendel's on Philips, and Pollini's superior fingerwork is soon evident. His virtuosity gains an extra dimension from his ability at the same time to convey resistance to it—the double octaves are demonstrably a fraction slower than usual and yet somehow feel faster, or at least more urgent. There is tensed steel in the very fabric of the playing. By the two-minute mark so much passion has been unleashed one is bound to wonder if it has not all happened too soon. But that is to underestimate Pollini's unerring grasp of the dramatic structure and its psychological progression from paragraph to paragraph; it is also to underestimate his capacity to find extra technical resources when it would seem beyond the power of flesh and blood to do so.
TOR LUNDVALLS NOTES: In September 2012, I received an e-mail from someone named John B. who said he had assembled a lengthy remix of my music, which also incorporated some of his own material. John asked if Id mind if he posted this recording on YouTube, to which I agreed. He also mentioned that there was a second part to his mix that was roughed out, but never completed. I was curious to hear both parts, so shortly afterwards, John mailed me two CDrs which I enjoyed very much. The recordings were hypnotic and haunting, evoking images of vast fields at twilight. I was especially fond of the second disc which had a darker atmosphere and featured more of Johns original material, beginning with ghostly clock chimes and ending with a mysterious piece using dried seed pods and other cryptic sounds that slowly built-up into an intense, almost claustrophobic environment.
After the compulsory Gymnopédies, this turns out to be an above average Satie collection. Parade is performed with relish and a healthy dose of anarchy, with no attempt being made to blend the pistol shots into the texture of the orchestra. Rather than the more usual companion pieces of Mercure and Relâche, Yutaka Sado builds the remaining programme around La belle excentrique and Le piège de Méduse, opting for some of the music - hall - inspired works in between. Pieces like Je te veux and Poudre d ’ or are familiar in their piano or vocal versions, but rarely get outings in the arrangements for brasserie orchestra, making this a most desirable disc for Satie devotees.
Equally acclaimed as a pianist and composer, Michael Brown has been described as ‘one of the most refined of all pianist-composers’ (International Piano) and ‘one of the leading figures in the current renaissance of performer-composers’ (The New York Times). His unique artistry is reflected in his creative approach to programming that often interweaves the classics with contemporary works and his own compositions.