Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Prelude;Three Studies; Blues.

3 Sonatas & 2 Sonatinas.
Herbert Henck (piano)
ECM New Series 1726 465 829-2 [38.50]
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Herbert Henck has a number of carefully programmed CDs for this enterprising label, all of which are well worth exploring. This latest release juxtaposes two important figures in American music history of (fairly) recent times. There is often a time-lag between innovation and its general acceptance

George Antheil (1900-1959) became notorious and found it hard to be taken seriously in USA after the failure of his Ballet Méchanique in New York. He was a man of many parts and a very considerable writer, with an excellent and entertaining autobiography, 'The Bad Boy of Music'. His piano music, with which he toured, brought him to public notice and caused a major riot in Paris. He was rated the loudest pianist ever to play at Wigmore Hall in London. This is a good selection of it, and shows his instinct for rhythm and interest in jazz. Several of the titles allude to machines. Sonata Sauvage which ends 'xylophonic prestissimo'. There is a Sonatina for radio, and one called The Aeroplane, begins 'as fast as possible' Antheil's Jazz Sonata is marked at one point 'like a player piano'.

Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997) is best known for his dazzling studies for the player piano, which extend rhythmic complexity to the ultimate. There are a few early pieces for piano composed in the 1930s and included here - it was the finding that their enormous rhythmic demands proved insuperable to pianists of the day which led to his exploration of a medium to express his ideas, and to a life of isolation and exile in which he laboriously punched out his music on paper rolls. Only in his last years did he enjoy international fame and his Studies for Player Piano latterly attained cult status.

Herbert Henck supplies his own readable essay on the piano music of both composers and the ECM production is characteristic of their care and individuality. The cover picture is unwittingly prophetic of our sad rural times, with a sad looking solitary cow! Recommended, despite short measure at under 40 mins.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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