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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Yoko Hirota, Small is Beautiful, Minature Piano Pieces


The intimacy of the solo piano work lends itself to the Modern art of the miniature, as something not attempting a grand design of high drama and towering form so much as the artful snapshot of a fleeting musical moment, a Zen instant of meaning for contemplation. Pianist Yoko Hirota gives to us a compelling and full program of such works by Modernists known and lesser-known on her recent Small is Beautiful, Miniature Piano Pieces (Navona NV6294).

There is a lot to like on this one, a wealth of tiny gems spanning the Early Modern to the Present-Day Modern period. There is so much worth hearing, extremely well played. The challenge, or one of them, to such thorough-going contemporaneity and economy of means-ends is that the pianist needs to fully digest the impact of each small totality and turn it into a unified expression. For of course it is true that no composer in this group intends to be random. Instead each work means itself as the togetherness of a dialogic expression in collaboration with the pianist.

The multiple-work groupings include Arnold Schoenberg's "Sechs Kleine Klavierstucke" (1911), Ernest Krenek's "Eight Piano Pieces" (1946), Aris Carastathis' "Traces" (1991, 2007), Gary Kulesha's "Two Pieces for Piano" (1994), and Robert Lemay's "6 Ushebtis (2003). The latter is a happy surprise, atmospheric and extended in technique and sound color. But that is not to lessen the other contributions, Each individual piece in the set relates to the other as pages in a photo album perhaps, serially intertwined yet distinct.

Add to that additional individual miniaturist statements by Ligeti, Berio, Carter, John Beckwith, Bruce Mather, Brian Cherney, John Weinzweig, and a final offering by Robert Lemay. The totality of the mix is heady, with the known and the very new or unfamiliar stepping out together in a kind of tour de force of the Modern from the vantage point of right now.

Yoko Hiroto gives it all her very own personal performative-interpretive poeticism. She takes care to lay down each phrase as a syntactical element in the overall meaning of the whole. She succeeds wonderfully well in drawing together the small parts of the miniature into its totality, in relation to each the other whole so that we feel organically addressed as a musical co-respondent, an audience enwrapped in absorption, spoken to with care and attention.

Any appreciator of involved Modern piano will find this a welcome addition to her-his collection. Happily recommended. Bravo!


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