Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Music for solo piano by British composers

JAMES ERBER You done torn your playhouse down *
CHRIS DENCH Topologies *

*=first recordings, from NMC Recordings
Ian Pace (piano)

NMC D066 [80 mins] (PGW)


Ian Pace is a powerful advocate for 'hard-edged' contemporary piano music, in which he is an acknowledged leader at the keyboard, and also a prolific writer. He has just given a five-hour marathon Finnissy recital (a review is promised for S&H) and this uncommonly well-filled CD is a perfect introduction to the esoteric field in which he flourishes.

The programme is a personal choice devoted to music by British composers, with all of whom he has worked closely. It begins with Fernyhough, whom I usually enjoy, and do so here, but can't explain quite why. Perhaps Pace can? He tells us, in a typically thoughtful, illuminating essay, that this music which he admires (Birtwistle, Dillon, Saunders, Skempton are a few other favourite composers, a very disparate group) emphasises clarity of line, is unsettling in structure, stimulates and challenges rather than soothes and consoles. A different world from what many readers seek of their CD purchases. But read on.

Pace believes also that it is not unnecessarily arcane, using as it does contrasts of dynamics, register and texture, providing 'immediacy exceeding that of conventional tonality'. There is the wide gulf to be bridged - and an approach to doing so.

Variety in plenty is there to find, contrived defamiliarisation of romantic & serial gestures, recast jazz/rock styles, delicate finger work as well as repetitive, rhythmic pounding, and Tract, a half hour work by Richard Barrett which seems to require a separate brain for each finger! This is all exciting music 'which forces pianists to expand tactile, emotive and intellectual range'.

You are unlikely to enjoy it all but you will surely marvel at Ian Pace's virtuosity. It is all about sound (which is readily perceived) and structure (which demands expert knowledge to be fully understood). Forget the latter, and discard your belief in received wisdoms that Liszt's transcendency (whether hard or made easier), Balakirev's Islamey , Rach 3, & Chopin Godowskied, represent the ultimate in pianistic demands - not in this century, nor at the end of the last, they don't!

What right does an amateur pianist/scribbler have to appraise Pace's performance, or to convey its character in words. Or indeed to take a view about the recording, made in an acoustic chosen and 'specially created' in a Tilburg studio by composer/producer Richard Barrett, who is unlikely to have let Pace get away with many mistakes in his Tract, 'one of the most demanding piano works ever composed'? Ian Pace is a fine pianist with a wide repertoire of music through past ages as well as of now, and his manner seen playing is always quiet and undemonstrative, taking it all in his stride with apparent ease. He is now in the middle of a three recital project in London which it is intended to cover in Seen&Heard.

Purchase this CD as an appetiser; try to get to Wigmore Hall for Ian Pace's A Portrait of John Ogdon to hear him in a less far-out, but still unusual programme, or wait until 26 February for his appearance at King's College.

Peter Grahame Woolf

9 February 2001 : Wigmore Hall, London. A concert sponsored by the John Ogdon Foundation.

JOHN OGDON - Ballade
LISZT - Mephisto Waltz No. 3 **
PETER MAXWELL DAVIES - Five Pieces Op. 2 **
JOHN OGDON - Theme and Variations
SCRIABIN - Sonata No. 10
BUSONI - All'Italia; Turandot's Frauengemach
JOHN OGDON - fromKaleidoscope: Sonata No. 6: Reminiscences of Scriabin; Sonata No. 11: Sonata super Boris

26 February 2001 : Great Hall, King's College, London

Early evening programme:
N.A. HUBER - Darrabuka; Beds and Brackets; Disappearances
Main programme to include:
GYÖRGY LIGETI - Touches Bloqueés
MAURICIO KAGEL - Metapiece/Mimetics

Ian Paces's website is

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Concert and Show tickets
Musicians accessories
Click here to visit