The ever-inquisitive pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar presents The Long 17th Century: A Cornucopia of Early Keyboard Music. The Long 17th Century refers to the period from the late 1500s to the early 1700s, an era noted for forward-thinking individuality and invention in all areas of life. This two-and-a-half hour recital surveys a pan-European variety of styles, genres and techniques, and comprises 36 works, each by a different composer, many not recorded before on a modern piano. Daniel-Ben Pienaar has been critically acclaimed for his previous albums on Avie: “a gloriously multi-faceted opus maximus ... Amazing and very much worthRead more hearing” –Der Spiegel(on Beethoven’s Complete Piano Sonatas, AV2320) “dizzying virtuosity ... fresh, spontaneous, original readings that shed new light on the keyboard player’s Bible” –BBC Music Magazine (on J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, AV2299)
Have you noticed the growing trend of pianists taking up 17th-century keyboard works on the modern concert grand? Perhaps it has to do with the desire to be rebellious, or to attain a certain level of intellectual caché. Yet pianists also have valid artistic reasons to explore this repertoire. First and foremost are the sheer musical rewards. Secondly, the freedom one has in regard to phrasing, tempo, and embellishment can be liberating and creatively stimulating. For this remarkable two-disc collection, Daniel-Ben Pienaar has chosen 36 17th-century keyboard works, each by a different composer. He brilliantly reveals how a piano’s dynamic scope, timbral diversity, and sustaining capabilities can vividly and meaningfully serve this repertoire.
One noticeable example is in Tarquino Merula’s Capriccio cromatico, where the ascending legato chromatic lines and detaché counterline with repeated notes take on distinctive characters. The Weckmann D minor Canzon’s virtuosic repeated notes gain color and drama through pianistic inflection, and via Pienaar’s dapper fingerwork, of course. Terraced dynamics and half-tints of pedal evoke trumpets and winds in Gabrieli’s joyous Canzon quarta.
What bracing trills and hair-trigger scale passages Pienaar delivers throughout Muffat’s Partita IV, while serving up a more unified and colorfully contrasted reading of Buxtehude’s large-scale “La Capricciosa” Variations than most period performers manage to do. And while Pienaar allows for pockets of space or “air” between the notes in Keril’s Passacaglia, he manages to shape the sounds and silences into long-lined entities. I encourage listeners to discover their own favorite works and magic moments across this intelligently programmed, splendidly engineered, and boundlessly satisfying release.
For these distracted timesFebruary 26, 2020By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"Occasionally an artist will construct a programme for a concert or a recording project that illuminates and instructs at a very high level, providing an aesthetic and scholarly experience that rivals the performance itself. Pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar has provided just this in his new two-disc album of music from the "Long 17th Century." "Perhaps a sensibility informed by the combined push-and-pull of present and past", he says, "is fundamental to finding common ground with the music of the 17th century now; that is, as a departure point for making the music familiar but also contemporary to us and not a mere theme-park visit to a distant world." Variety is one of the key concepts here: Pienaar has chosen for his Cornucopia 36 works by 36 different composers. But it's the common ground within this broad musical array that allows Pienaar to build a programme of similarly-sounding music written in the period from the last three decades of the 1500s, the entire 1600s, to the beginning of the 1700s. His version of the "Long 17th Century" is thus analogous to popular music in the 1950s extending into the pre-Beatles Sixties: the motto of Spielberg's American Graffiti was "Where were you in '62?" A number of these composers are at least fairly well-known - Peter Philips, Matthew Locke, Georg Muffat, Giles Farnaby, William Byrd, Dietrich Buxtehude, John Bull. But there are also many names that are completely new to me: Pablo Bruna, John Coprario, Juan Bautista Cabanilles, Antonio Correa Braga, Gaspard Le Roux. Pienaar draws a parallel between the modernizing tendencies of the 17th century and his own adaptations of the music for the modern piano, referring to "the pragmatic and free-spirited tradition not only of the 17th century but also of our own time." This project is a model for scholarly presentation, but it has the freshness & verve of a couple of long sets in a jazz club. Thomas Tompkin's "A Sad Pavan for these distracted times" is a sad little piece with a perfect title, which echoes back and forth through the centuries. It made me think of T. S. Eliot's Burnt Norton: Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker Over the strained time-ridden faces Distracted from distraction by distraction Filled with fancies and empty of meaning Tumid apathy with no concentration Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind That blows before and after time, Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs Time before time and after. This album can act as a soundtrack for 2020, as we all dodge the distractions of our over-busy lives and our over-watched screens. It might help, or so one hopes, to bring meaning and the consolations of true art to our lives, "whirled by the cold wind.""Report Abuse