Monday, October 24, 2016

Haskell Small, Book of Hours

What comes into your ears quiety and poetically? Haskell Small's modern piano music anthology, Book of Hours (MSR Classics 1601). Inspired by Aldous Huxley's thought: "All the things that are fundamental...all the things that are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence. After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music..."

"A Journey in Silence: Reflections on the Book of Hours" (2015) takes that mystery and gives us 11 movements with excruciatingly beautiful mediations, quiet in a post-impressionist, post-Satiean, post-Messianesque way that is expressively becalmed in blissful originality. As with the entire anthology Haskell plays the piano parts himself and he gives us his world undiluted, ultra-pianistic. It is profound music.

"Lullaby of War" (2007) is for piano and two narrators. Select poetic texts by Hart Crane, Walt Whitman and others punctuate and are punctuated in turn by the piano response. It is as haunting as "Silence" but understandably contrasting in mood and tone.

This all is a testament to Haskell Small's musical poignancy, his brilliant demeanor, his modern expressivity. It is an album you should live with and plumb your depths with.

I recommend it gladly and happily.

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