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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Mishka Rushdie Momen, Variations, Solo Piano by Clara and Robert Schumann, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Nico Muhly and Vijay Iyer

The theme and variations form in Classical music has given us a way of thinking about the essential and its various inventive modifications, and then of course there came Jazz with a marvelous richness of invention, and yet then again the Modern today where all in music is a variation on itself at times.

Pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen gives us in this wise a smartly thought-out program and a nicely turned solo piano performance of select Variations (SOMM Recordings 8603). She begins with the Romanticism of Clara and Robert Schumann, Brahms, Mendelssohn, and then very related variations by Contemporary Modern Nico Muhly and Modern Jazz master Vijay Iyer.

Clara Schumann's lovely 'Variations, Op. 20 on a Theme by Robert Schumann" sets the tone for the cycle of works presented on this program. These are probing, sensitive takes on a theme from Schumann's  Bunte Blatter. In turn we hear in response Brahms' treatment of the very same theme as a reaction and tribute to both, and then contemporary Nico Muhly's take on both the Schumann theme and the Brahms response. Then too there is Vijay Iyer's freely interpolated response to the responses, in a way a very right now point of view.that takes us full circle around to the top without an undue amount of willy nilly, just enough of a freedom in other words, so that we can consider the openness of the variations project once again as it was at the start of things, before the first note sounded.

To add another dimension Robert Schumann's and Mendelssohn's variations are moving responses to the Eroica Variations by Beethoven, in many ways of course the "founder of the feast" (to wax Dickensonian here).

All this music demands a poetess or poet of the ivories. We get that quite consistently and fully with Mishka Rushdie Momen, who is yet young and very connected to this music as a sensitive soul herself. It is the right sort of performance for today, neither overly showy nor reluctant to sing out. It is a happy middle ground she finds that makes it all come together and flow into its channels.

All I can do in these now very many reviews is to put out a suggestion of the what, the how and why of a recording and then of course it either seems to you something to hear or not. I so do recommend this one for its connectivity and its poetics and its tie of the Romantic and the Modern Contemporary in variations form. A hearty bravo.

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