Pianist Orion Weiss gives us on his album Arc I (First Hand Records FHR127) the first installment of a three-part, ambitious series of historically grounded solo piano anthologies. This first part looks at the period of 1911-13 as a world on the brink of WWI and grappling with what was coming, shining on a kind of hope yet at moments filled with despair for what might be ahead. The volume helps express a historical tuneful and timefulness with three piano compositions that illuminate a sort of musical mood index of a state of being expressing the impending advent of a world-changing crisis that transformed all in its path in time and in a way made Modernism possible after a levelling of the status quo that was decidedly fading before the sweep of change that hit Europe like a tidal wave. By situating the works in the chronology of world cataclysms it invites experiencing the works in situ and as reflections of the world in which stunning piano moods emerged. Of course that does not mean we should apply some absolute blanket of causality, rather it is to consider the works within their experiential backdrops.
So we get "Goyescas" by Granados, "In the Mists" by Janacek, and "Piano Sonata No. 9" by Scriabin, all written in a three year sequence, Granados in 1911, Janacek in 1912, and the Scriabin in 1913.
That the three works considered in a continuum.gradually increase in turbulence is something that we might experience as an opening into a event scenario that corresponds with the music; it is something we can sense and yet we do not have to pin it all down absolutely. Palpably it does invite experiencing in this way and in the process it gives us another dimension to consider outside of the works as individual entities in themselves.
And Orion Weiss gives us performances fully worthy of the importance of each of these works. We feel the drift of historical events yet of course the ability of classic works to state the world in their own terms.
This one is enthusiastically recommended. History, the early vitality of Modernism and a wonderful performative pianism join together for an experience well worth your listening time.