Many of the CDs that have come my way for review have
featured composers new not only to me but also, I suspect, to most of
my readers. The dutiful endurance of tedium has often resulted - but
there have been some totally unexpected delights: and this is undoubtedly
one of them.
Not yet 30 [written 2001],
pianist-composer Carter Pann has already carved out for himself a distinctive
niche in the confused whirligig of contemporary music. Says conductor
José Serebrier: 'From the hundreds of scores I receive yearly,
Carter Pann's [stand] out for their boldness and outrageousness'; and
having heard this disc, I at once concur with the conductor's enthusiasm.
First, those who won't approve can read this paragraph
and, having got to the end of it (if not before), quickly turn elsewhere.
It will not appeal to those who: a) feel that classical music must always
provide a 'serious' experience; b) are devotees of the (fading?) Boulez/Stockhausen/Birtwistle
schools of thought; c) regard angst and the addressing of the
'crisis of humanity' question as essential prerequisites for a worthwhile
composition; and d) think that absurd titles are guarantees of profound
Without doubt, the disc will appeal to those
who, like myself, readily respond to contemporary music which: a) is
unashamedly tonal (though spiced with occasional outbursts of atonal
mayhem); b) indulges in pastiche; c) invites you to 'spot the original'
(it contains innumerable quotes from other composers - some at once
evident, others tantalisingly clouded or otherwise distorted); d) speaks
in a totally individual voice, and is superbly crafted. Then there's
that elusive, rare quality of humour in music (Dohnanyi's Variations
on a Nursery Tune, Maxwell Davies's Mavis in Las Vegas are
among the few successful essays in the field): in some of these pieces
there's almost a laugh a minute.
Not the least attractive feature of the disc is the
accompanying note from the composer: mischievously comprehensible, it
is light-years away from the usual contorted guff we get from 'serious'
composers. So, Piña Colada, the first of the Piano Concerto's
five movements 'is a pop tune nearing a state of drunken redundance'
Sample . Your Touch,
the third movement, is 'a smokey lounge-piece for solo piano'. Sample
The Concert finale (preceded by a brief but delicious Blues
sample ) is an absolute riot: here
I spotted, amongst others, Mozart, Beethoven and Prokofiev, not to mention
a hilarious snatch from the third movement of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique
Symphony: all intended, I guess, to be the ultimate send-up of 'the
big piano concerto'. Sample
The very different Dance Partita is no less
attractive: the composer's gift for pastiche is even more evident. It
consists of four contrasted dances punctuated by witty baroque ritornelli
(à la Respighi). The Folk Dance features echoes
of Copland (Rodeo), Bernstein (Candide), and Grainger
(?), and Scottish reels. sample
Pas d'éclectique, the last dance, is dominated by an obsession
with phrases from the finales of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony and Emperor
Concerto, but contains much else besides. Sample
Pann's quaint orchestration is a source of wonder and joy throughout;
and he is also a master of surprise, usually throwaway, endings.
Deux Séjours portrays two small towns
in France: they are straight imitations of Debussy's orchestrations
of Satie's Gymnopédies. Fontvielle
The first of Two Portraits of Barcelona depicts Gaudi's cathedral
sample ('a gnarly wicked picture',
says the composer, with justification: Debussy's La Cathédrale
Engloutie is there somewhere). The Bullfight mingles sparkily
handled clichés of Spanish music with themes from Carmen
and Ravel's La Valse (a work which appears, incidentally, elsewhere
on the disc). Sample
To quote Serebrier again: ' ... what could be considered
derivative musical ideas at first hearing, or even imitative, on further
acquaintance appear well-planned, distilled through the composer's special
This CD is an amazing original: if taken up by Classic
FM it will prove to be a chart-topper. It's brilliantly performed
and well recorded (though the piano is a little too forward for my taste).
Full-price value at Naxos bargain rates - a snip!