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Piano Music


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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Not ideal July 27 2008
By C. P. Cooman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The immensely talented pianist Ralph van Raat has recorded excellent albums of piano music by John Adams and Frederic Rzewski for Naxos. Having enjoyed some pieces from John Tavener's relatively small output of solo piano music, I was thus looking forward to this disc. It is, however, a disappointment.

The finest work of Tavener's piano catalogue is the gorgoeus "Ypakoë", a mystical meditation on the Passion and Resurrection that integrates a beautiful chorale-like idea (taken from his motet "As one who hast slept") with the ecstatic sounds of trills and bells.

Van Raat's rushed interpretation of this work, however, is completely lacking in the spaciousness and fervor required for this piece. Tavener's published score lists its duration at about 21 minutes; van Raat takes only about 13.5 minutes, leaping headlong, without poetry, through the work. [It has been pointed out to me, quite correctly, that the liner notes do contain a brief sentence referring to the fact that Tavener supervised these recording sessions and made some changes to the scores. However, whether the tempo choice was Van Raat's or Tavener's, I stand by the musical assertion that it robs one of his most beautiful piano scores of its mystery and beauty.]

For an ideal performance of "Ypakoë," Elena Riu's disc "Piano Icons for the 21st Century" (Linn Records) is the one to buy. The work was written for and premiered by her.

The other major work on the disc is the recent "Pratirupa", a piece which Tavener created in versions both for piano alone and piano with string orchestra. Van Raat's performance of this work is more compelling than his rendition of "Ypakoë", but the piece is not one of Tavener's stronger compositions. It rambles, without partaking of the sublime beauty of his finest works. Furthermore, it is substantially more effective (and colorful) in the version with strings.

The other works on the disc are small pieces of varied character -- appealing in their simplicity, but not reason enough to purchase the disc.

I will look forward to exploring Van Raat's recordings of other repertoire but cannot recommend this disc.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Van Raat makes a good case for this music Feb. 6 2011
By Philippe Vandenbroeck - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This Naxos recording of John Tavener's piano music by Ralph van Raat is an altogether rewarding disc. Contrary to an earlier reviewer it seems to me that Ralph van Raat makes a good case for a kind of music that could easily be dismissed as fluffy new age stuff. The two longer and more recent compositions are the most interesting. The shorter pieces didn't strike me as particularly memorable.

Ypakoë allegedly means "to be obedient", "to hear", "to respond" in Greek. Ypakoë is also a traditional hymn chanted in the Eastern Orthodox liturgy. The piece comes across as a keyboard suite consisting of different sections (not cued on the Naxos disc). It opens with a festive preludium, majestic bells pealing, not uncommon in Tavener's music. An understated, attractive 2-part invention follows, emulating a baroque idiom. This mood is extrapolated in the next section, a very simple and sombre chorale melody. No counterpoint involved at all. A short, celebratory peroration soon makes way for the chorale again. We're halfway and the music moves in familiar Tavener territory with another subdued, hymnic theme, accompanied by rapid, ceremonial figurations in the right hand. Maybe this is the sound of the Greek 'kanokaki' where Van Raat refers in his liner notes? The chorale returns again, but only briefly, almost as a motto theme. Textures continue to thin out in a mysterious grave, pppp. A beautiful, nocturnal meditation that gives way to a rousing finale that connects back to the pealing bells of the beginning.

An earlier reviewer chastised Van Raat for playing Ypakoë much too fast. It is indeed the case that the dedicatee of the piece, the Venezuelan pianist Elena Riu recorded a much slower version, taking over 20 minutes, on a Linn Records disc. Van Raat takes just over 13 minutes. However, comparing the two recordings I must say I side with the interpretation of the Dutch pianist. Tavener may wish the music to attune us to the divine will, but in her desire for spiritual communion Riu tries to spin rather too much yarn from little wool. As a result, the music sounds dull and contrived. In Van Raat's hands the piece continues to breathe and its relative briskness lends it a beguiling freshness.

The other piece, Pratirupa, takes almost a full half hour. I suppose one has to be in the right frame of mind to stay focused on what ultimately seems to be relatively modest musical material. It's an extended meditation that revolves around three basic components: a gentle, nocturnal fantasy that forms the backbone of the piece, a lullaby that returns as a motto theme and, finally, a set of periodic eruptions of a Messiaen-like density and ferocity.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Unique Tavener recording Dec 16 2013
By Byzantiney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Recently when John Tavener died, I was surprised to find that he had composed piano music. He was famous for his choral works. This recording is quite wonderful -compositions show the creative and spiritual writing of Tavener in a fascinating piano performance.


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