Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Kai Schumacher, Insomnia, Piano Music by Gershwin/Cage/Crumb/Belet/Stark

The thematic program can create a long-lived mood that perhaps no one work can do as well. That assumes that the music is well chosen and works together to bring to the theme a multi-faceted musical landscape.

That surely is the case with pianist Kai Schumacher and his suite of modern works all having something to do with Insomnia (Hanssler Classic 93-334). The album covers five pieces in multiple modern dimensions, showcasing the solo pianistic gamut of possibilities and a wide historical time frame.

The sequence is well considered and gives us an aural workout on the themes of night, sleep and the lack of it. So we begin with George Gershwin's little gem "Sleepless Night (Prelude)" played on a slightly out-of-tune saloon piano to give us that "last call" atmospheric feel. From there we go to John Cage's mesmeric "Dream" and its magic.

Perhaps the centerpiece is the George Crumb opus, "A Little Midnight Music," his inside-and-outside the piano meditations on Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight." It is especially well done, though Schumacher treats all the works with special attention to sound staging and a dramatic sensitivity to mood.

Brian Belet's "Summer Phantoms: Nocturne" delves even more deeply into the evocative inside-outside the piano night ruminations, with electronics joined closely with the live piano part to create a deep-night atmosphere.

We end with Bruce Stark's more down-to-earth "Urban Nocturnes," in a sense coming full-circle from the immediacy of Gershwin to the more atmospheric night sounds of the three middle pieces and then back again to a matter-of-fact suchness.

Kai Schumacher gives us performances of both subtlety and power, making each work stand out as very much within its own world, thanks to the creative interpretive touch of his masterful approach.

The album breathes life into the night-sleepless theme in ways that strike the careful listener, map out a dramatic trajectory, stay in the mind as a landmark program that exposes us to a wide range of modern piano music and makes it all accessible by nature of the thematic unity of the program.

An impressive outing and a joy of poetic pianism. Bravo, Maestro Schumacher!

No comments:

Post a Comment