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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Jacob TV, Complete Solo Piano Music, Jeroen van Veen

Today's new music classical scene most certainly has a fair amount of activity in the minimalist, post-modern, radical tonality or plain-old elemental tonality zone. Of course as we have seen on these pages there is a good deal else. Nevertheless there are composers working in the former territories that we have not as yet covered. One is up for review today. His name is Jacob TV (or Jacob Ter Veldhuis, to use his full given name) (b. 1951). He purveys what he calls "avant pop", which sounds catchy enough, but doesn't always quite fit what he does. Hey, it's new music! It isn't pop. Ah, but he no doubt jests with us? No matter.

At any rate a significant two-volume CD is out, Complete Solo Piano Music (Brilliant 94873) which features pianist Jeroen van Veen, joined by Sandra van Veen for the two-piano "Views from a Dutch Trame", and replaced by Ronald Brautigam for the "Piano Concerto No. 2 'Sky Falling'", which also brings in the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic under Thierry Fischer. Otherwise, Jeroen Van Veen prevails, and that suits the music well because he seems to understand the composer quite intimately.

We get a sort of post-Satie repose contrasted by busy agitation on the two-installment "Pianobook 1 & 2", then there are more directly minimal works, including some "Boom Box" pieces, so-called, like "The Body of Your Dreams", which samples an over-the-top enthused exercise device ad while creating piano melodies that echo the pitch implications of the speech-sounds, something in the manner of the Reich of "Different Trains" and other works from that period. It may be popular out there to do this and Jacob TV puts the mix together in a clever manner, but frankly I can get tired quickly of this sort of thing. Mercifully there aren't that many here and they take up little space. So I suppose it is good to include them to be sure and give us a representative sample ("complete" at any rate) of what Jacob TV is about.

The "Piano Concerto No. 2 'Sky Falling'" has a very diatonic radical tonality bent. It is even just plain "tuneful" and treats us to a refreshing piece of music whose sometimes cheerfulness belies its inspiration--the 2008 recession and a reporter's comment on it, that the sky was "not falling". There are moments where the cheerfulness drops off for a moment or two, fittingly. It captivates.

Jacob Ter Veldhuis channeled through Jeroen van Vleet embodies pianistic sensitivity in a set that has many quite lovely moments. Pianist van Vleet seems exceptionally sympathetic to this music, giving us straightforward yet evocative performances throughout. It is very accessible fare, something even a stubborn anti-modernist may find enchanting. Yet there is nothing vapid or new age about the music. It is filled with twists and turns that show a very musical mind at work. Time flies when you listen. Yet there is a contemplative side to it all as well.


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