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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Momo Kodama, Point and Line, Piano Etudes of Debussy and Hosokawa

If I get to this review a bit late it has nothing to do with the quality of the music. Chance and the scrambling of my personal life are to blame. In order to make an omelet, one has to break a few eggs as NY Mayor Wagner said many years ago. And if you break a few eggs while you contemplate what kind of eggs you want, it may not end up as an omelet.

So we go. Pianist Momo Kodama is a beautiful force for contemporary pianism. The music reverberates  with resolve and intention, like a well planned omelet, so to say.  She comes through strikingly on her recent album Point and Line (ECM New Series 2509). She juxtaposes in enlightening fashion Debussy's celebrated "Etudes Pour Piano" with Hosokawa's somewhat less known but very compelling "Etudes I-VI for Piano."

One might assert that Debussy's etudes are more line oriented while Hosokawa veers toward the point, but not exactly. Both make use of point and line. Hosokawa at times is more the abstracted modernist whose points of pianistic articulation contrast with a more horizontal spreading out of line-points with Debussy. Again, though, you end up thanks to Ms. Kodama experiencing the all in the all, the line-point enactment differences and similarities contained within each.

In the process the sheer sensuous beauty of the Debussy shines forth without a lot romantic effusiveness or blundering passion, as perhaps we have heard all-too-often from even the most distinguished performers in the past. No, Ms. Kodama gives us a remarkably focused, dreaming, precise yet limpidly poetic performance that allows us to experience at a leisurely pace the incredible projective aura of the music as Debussy set it down so many years ago.

It was a great idea to intermingle the Debussy and the Hosokawa movements one against the other. The not-so-familiar Hosokawa becomes an active contrast to the very familiar Debussy as point and line each vivify the other. Momo Kodama performs the Hosokawa with the same poetic care and in the process spells out the wonder of this more abstracted music to make both approaches live and sing to us one against the other.

As you listen, and then listen again, there is a crystalline clarity to it all fitting to this season (or for that matter any season). I must say Momo Kodama brings alive the Debussy with a sincerity that rings true. She has given us one of the great performances of the work, I have no doubt. And then the Hosokawa both heightens and extends the pleasure of the moment in ways one cannot have anticipated but feels in time as totally right, nearly inevitable.

This is essential! Do not doubt yourself. Just hear it!

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