Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Ends of the Earth: Four Impromptus
Derek Kealii Polischuk (pn)
BLUE GRIFFIN 301 (71: 32)
This is a fascinating release. While the Osborne is intended as complementary to the Schubert, one can see how the contemporary element might dissuade potential purchasers. One hopes this will not be the case, for to offer music in this way is both to utilize the compact disc
format fully and to stimulate the listener.
The Schubert receives an excellent performance from Polischuk, fluent and with excellently aligned chordal work. Shadings are perfectly judged, and Schubert’s sense of timelessness is superbly realized in the A? Impromptu. Here, Polischuk is completely unafraid to take his time, while in the B?-Major Impromptu rubato is perfectly judged, finding the pianist testing the boundaries of what constitutes too much without actually transgressing. The playful F-Minor offers pure joy.
Thomas Osborne (who has an impressive website: thomas-osborne.com) was born in Indiana and gained degrees from Indiana, Rice University, and Southern California. He holds what must be a dream job: associate professor of composition and theory at the University of Hawaii. His music is informed by many non-Western musical idioms. The work
The Ends of the Earth,
premiered by the composer himself at Michigan State University in 2011, is inspired by medieval maps, and more specifically their boundaries: the limits past which the then-geographical knowledge ran out. The first movement in fact gives the disc its marketing title:
. It is an eight-minute sonic exploration of great beauty. Osborne uses extended percussion techniques (mallets to play on the piano’s strings and frame) as well as invoking gamelan, thus using unfamiliar ways of delivering sound to mirror the unfamiliar borders of the old maps. Inevitably, the ear catches resonances of the works of John Cage. The ocean-inspired second piece, “Terra Incognitum,” begins with an Indonesian inspired opening and ends with an Okinawan melody. I hope that sounds fascinating, because it is. There is much beauty here; the third movement brings in hints of Messiaen (“Terra Pericolosa”—Dangerous Land) both in the chords used and in the presence of birdsong. By using Theme and Variations, Osborne aligns it with the third of the Schubert Impromptus just heard. Finally, “Terra Lullius,” a fascinating melding of an incomplete Schubert Lied and an indigenous Hawaiian song. Invoking a monumental, timeless scale initially (and using silence intelligently and effectively), the movement skillfully works in the Schubert fragment, ending on a question mark.
Along with hard copies, this intriguing disc is also available on Google Play and iTunes.
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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