Concert Review

IAN PACE at bmic, The Warehouse 28th October

In a concert predominantly of challenging twentieth-century piano music, the pieces by Luke Stoneham (the featured composer of Ian Pace's recital) seemed rather incongruous. Pace began with two pieces by Stoneham from the early 1990's. In 'Carmen', fragments of Bizet's opera tried to burst through Stoneham's insistent 'looping techniques', but both this piece and 'Left of Centre' seemed lacking in depth and assurance. Perhaps it was unwise to set Stoneham at the opening against the more taxing Finnissy, Xenakis, Messiaen, Ligeti and Cage, who together formed the main course. Stoneham's music also began the second part of the concert, the repetitive doodling of 'Crow' (1997) pitted against 'pour les cinq doigts', a distant cousin, third removed, of Debussy's Etude, (incidentally, Pace's encore was the companion piece to 'Crow', entitled 'Crows'!).

Pace gave Finnissy's 'Snowdrift' (1972) plenty of space in which to breathe, maximising the contrasts between filigree/stasis and outburst/cluster. He also brought an appropriately ritualistic feeling to the opening of Messiaen's 'Le Courlis Cendre' (from 'Catalogue d'Oiseau' Book 7), his chording impeccably weighted.

Xenakis' 'Mists' (1981) has enjoyed the advocacy of pianists such as Roger Woodard and Claude Helffer. Pace saw the opening as less dynamic than most other interpreters, saving his vehemence for it's recurrence - he seemed very at home in this segmented, gestural world. Three studies by Ligeti gave the opportunity for both virtuoso display (the mechanistic 'Der Zauberlehrling', the toccata-like 'L'escalier du diable' and the reflective, Debussy-like 'En suspens', the latter continued in Cage's pointilist Etude Australe No. 10.

It was indeed brave to programme Finnissy's Piano Concerto No. 4 at the end of such an exhausting programme, but Pace rose magnificently to its demands. A 'Hammerklavier' for the twentieth century (played here in Finnissy's 1996 revision, which is dedicated to Pace), it's explosive character seems like Xenakis-on-heat, stockpiling musical layers as if they are going out of fashion (although this is not to imply that Pace was ignorant of its more delicate moments). Small wonder the reception was rapturous (and deservedly so).

Colin Clarke

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