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Piano Circus - Volans, Lang, Reich, Moran

Piano Circus
Release Date: 08/25/2010 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 440294   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Kevin VolansDavid LangSteve ReichRobert Moran
Performer:  Kirsteen Davidson-KellyRichard HarrisMichael HaslamKate Heath,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Piano Circus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 54 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Beyond Reich's Six Pianos and Riley's In C there is very little in the way of extended compositions for the multiple keyboard repertoire, and those that are being produced are largely, if not wholly, due to Piano Circus's extensive and laudable commissioning project. Even so, with the exception of their previous recording of Log, Line and Loud by Graham Fitkin (which form a satisfying triptych, 1/93), none of the works appearing on disc could reasonably be described as 'full-scale' or extended. The results tend to be rather mixed-bag affairs, high in contrast content, but with very little linking the selected pieces other than a bias towards minimalist expression.

Their latest disc is a prime example: how many listeners, I
Read more wonder, will find equal enjoyment in all the pieces presented here? None but the most dedicated devotee of minimalism I would say. For myself, only two of the four pieces held my attention beyond a single playing. David Lang's Face so pale curried favour with these ears if perhaps only because, rather narcissistically, it reminds me of one of my own compositions. Lang's curious metamorphosis of Guillaume Dufay's ballade Se le face ay pale has a hypnotic, dream-like effect on the listener as it drifts in and out of focus on constant single-note tremolos. Lang, who also used a similar technique in his earlier piece Orpheus Over and Under, states that he wanted to create a "nervous vocal tradition" (not something one would normally associate with the piano) and to my mind he has succeeded admirably. Robert Moran's Three Dances for six synthesizers, though very different in style, also exert a strange (even eerie) hold over the listener. The first two—"Anastasia's TwoStep" and "Miami City Slink"—succeed particularly well in projecting the composer's own "mind's eye picture" of a murky 1940s dance hall with its broken "mirror ball", its few "dance customers" and its "punch bowl of dubious contents" where, as Moran says, time appears to have "taken four steps backwards and two to the right". Both dances have a strong element of the automata about them. The final dance, "Lithuanian Spin", sounds much as its title suggests—with the emphasis very much on the word 'spin'. On the whole it succeeds in its objective, but set against the first two dances its lack of melodic substance makes it the least memorable of the three.

I detected an element of ritual in Kevin Volans's Kneeling Dance for six pianos: an image of alternating 'ritual dance' and 'ritual incantation' formed in my mind whilst listening, though the composer stresses in the insert-notes that there is no particular significance in the title and that the music is strictly non-narrative. It's certainly an impressive piece; not only in its juxtaposition of complex and simple material, but also in the gorgeous chordal timbres produced by six pianos played at full tilt. Steve Reich's Four Organs has become something of a minimalist classic, though I have to say that it's not a particular favourite of mine. Call me old-fashioned if you will, but I can see little to get excited about in a piece that contains no melodic material, no rhythmic backbone, no harmonic movement or dynamic variation, and which in matters of timbre possesses all the charm of a dentist's drill. As with the other pieces on this disc Piano Circus give an impeccable performance, but was it really worth all that counting? Good recorded sound.

-- Gramophone [1/1994]
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Works on This Recording

Kneeling Dance by Kevin Volans
Performer:  Kirsteen Davidson-Kelly (Piano), Richard Harris (Piano), Michael Haslam (Piano),
Kate Heath (Piano), Max Richter (Piano), Ginny Strawson (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Piano Circus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985/1987; Ireland 
Length: 8 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Face so pale by David Lang
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Piano Circus
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 9 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Four Organs by Steve Reich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Piano Circus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; USA 
Length: 16 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Dances (3) by Robert Moran
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Piano Circus
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 18 Minutes 52 Secs. 

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