Paintings in the Hall embodies Pearson’s musical responses to a series of famous images. He animates Renoir’s Dance at Bougival with a flowing, slightly surreal waltz, its placid texture interrupted by sparkling trills and a prestissimo cadenza. “Sunday Afternoon on the Island La Grande Jatte” is a close cousin that to me combines a pastoral mood with playfulness, although it turns somber for a moment before the opening material’s recapitulation, and closes in the minor. I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that both pieces show a French connection. Woman III alternates between quiet and aggressive sections; perhaps de Kooning’s disturbing image aroused a paradoxical mixture of emotions. Pearson characterizes Kandinsky’s CompositionRead more VII with a skipping, mildly sarcastic theme enlivened by occasional dissonance and subtle accentuation. Think Shostakovich and friends. Girl with the Pearl Earring, inspired by Vermeer’s famous portrait, is the longest piece at more than 10 minutes. Serene and contemplative, it’s written in classical sonata form and includes a section strongly reminiscent of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring in meter and melody. I enjoy Pearson’s interpretation of Manet’s Battle of the Kearsage and the Alabama for the independence of the lines, which lends an improvisatory freedom to the piece.
One significant feature of Paintings in the Hall is Pearson’s refusal to take the obvious path. In other words, powerful antiwar statements like Picasso’s Guernica and The Charnel House are portrayed as often as not in music of surprising mildness. To be sure, there are some dramatic outbursts in “Guernica,” with quick bass runs and strong octaves reinforcing the mood, and there’s an ominous tread to the beginning of The Charnel House. Still, I think listeners will be surprised by some of Pearson’s aesthetic choices. (The accompanying booklet for Paintings in the Hall includes reproductions of the pictures, so listeners will be able to refresh their memories of these familiar works and ponder their own preferences for matching music to image.)
Pearson is an excellent pianist, with a fluid technique marked by complete independence of the hands, rhythmic incisiveness, and the ability to improvise coherent and exciting solos at any tempo. He can be searingly intense or delicately persuasive, and his fellow musicians perform flawlessly, demonstrating a real flair for Polydia’s jazz-inflected pieces; the cellist is equally impressive in the sonata. Both discs are beautifully recorded; in addition to a natural piano sound that highlights the lovingly regulated, responsive, and balanced pair of Steinways Pearson plays, all the instruments benefit from the production’s keen attention to timbre and ambiance. Indeed, Polydia’s timbral inventiveness inclines me to expect any orchestrations for larger forces to be equally colorful and creative. Concinnity Records is off to a good start and I’m looking forward to future releases. Perhaps Pearson’s piano concertos?
Very FINE ArtDecember 16, 2011By B. Timmons See All My Reviews"I got this CD as a gift. I didn't like it at first. His compositional style seemed caught between worlds. Old and new. Well it's one of my favorite classical CDs now. I listen to it often. Great dinner time listening though best in a soft chair with a good wine. "Report Abuse