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John McCabe: Upon Entering a Painting

Joseph Tong, Waka Hasegawa
Release Date: 03/13/2012 
Label:  Quartz Records   Catalog #: 2088   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  John McCabe
Performer:  Waka HasegawaJoseph Tong
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

McCABE Upon Entering a Painting. Edward II: 2 Scenes. Basse Danse. Gaudi Study No. 3, “Gaudí.” Study No. 12, “Sonata” Joseph Tong, Waka Hasegawa (pn) QUARTZ 2088 (68:16)

The music of John McCabe is woefully underrepresented in the catalogs. Himself a pianist (I heard him give a fine performance of a Mozart concerto Read more with the Hallé Orchestra back in the 1980s), he writes idiomatically and well for his instrument. The first work here, Upon Entering a Painting (2009), was commissioned by the present performers and was inspired by the Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern in 2009. McCabe tells the story of how he was inspecting the canvases at short range to really appreciate the surface detail, and how this incurred the wrath of the curators. The result was clearly worth it. He describes the sense of approaching a painting physically in the music by aggregating textures. Faster sections reflect the “teeming inner life of the brush-strokes”; the closing stripping of textures represents physical distancing from the painting (and is superbly managed here by the players). The players are brilliant, bringing tremendous vitality to the dancing sections; fast runs are jaw-droppingly articulated.

The two short excerpts from the ballet Edward II (the full-length version was performed at Stuttgart Ballet in 1995) are contrasting. The first, “The French Court,” plays with pastiche and is very active. Again, there is glorious articulation from both players. It is both lovely and charming. The far heavier second excerpt (“The Barons”), representing the prevailing shadowy side of the work, seems to use similar (if less complex) rhythmic procedures to that heard in the Painting piece. Renaissance dance is found again at the basis for the Basse Danse (1970). (There is an orchestral version of this piece dating from 1973.) It is much more extended than the previous two pieces; they last around four minutes, while this is more than 12.

The 1970 Gaudí , formally a rondo, is dedicated to Valerie Tryon and is composed in tribute to Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. McCabe uses bell and gong gestures to register his reactions to Gaudí, as well as delicate filigree (gorgeously rendered here) and evocations of an idyll. This is a lovely, fascinating work in which the generating factor (which, after all, we do not really need to know) results in a finely constructed stand-alone piece. Hasegawa, on her own here, clearly enjoys the sonorous variety on show. Finally, the Sonata (Study No. 12), a tribute to Tippett (first performed by the excellent Ashley Wass at London’s Cadogon Hall in 2009); McCabe does quote from a couple of Tippett’s works in this single-movement sonata (of course Tippett wrote fine piano sonatas himself). Tong is the featured pianist here, and he gives a performance of utmost concentration and delicacy.

A memorable disc. Let’s have more of McCabe’s music in the catalogs.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Upon Entering a Painting, for 2 pianos by John McCabe
Performer:  Waka Hasegawa (Piano), Joseph Tong (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2008-2009 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 16 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Edward II: The French Court by John McCabe
Performer:  Waka Hasegawa (Piano), Joseph Tong (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1993-1994 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 5 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Edward II: The Barons by John McCabe
Performer:  Joseph Tong (Piano), Waka Hasegawa (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1993-1994 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 4 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Basse Danse, for 2 pianos by John McCabe
Performer:  Joseph Tong (Piano), Waka Hasegawa (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1970 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 12 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Study No. 3 (Gaudí), for piano by John McCabe
Performer:  Waka Hasegawa (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1970 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 15 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Study No. 12 (Sonata), for piano by John McCabe
Performer:  Joseph Tong (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2009 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 13 Minutes 53 Secs. 

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