Classical, New Music
Wirripang Wirr 059
Reviewed by Daniel Blinkhorn, November 1st, 2015
Antarctica, released on the Wirripang label, presents 11 composers’ interpretations of earth’s most southern continent, exploring the delicate, unmistakable and endearing timbre of the toy piano (there are in fact two featured throughout the compilation), as well as that of the grand piano, all of which are performed by pianist Antonietta Loffredo.
The CD is beautifully presented and contains a booklet articulating each of the composer’s evocations of Antarctica, and the many different ways Antarctica inspired and informed their compositions.
Ranging from minimal to more complex and strident harmonies, rhythms and resonances, the somewhat playful, yet oddly appropriate sonorities of the toy piano work beautifully in tandem with the more familiar timbral characteristics of the grand piano, which combine to provide an extremely cogent, unified and organic flow to the release.
While they are stylistically diverse, there is a distinctive sense of place and purpose that seems to coalesce throughout each work. On the one end of the spectrum there are compositions such as Inside Silence by Portuguese composer Sara Carvalho which displays an almost electroacoustic sensibility (in particular via her exploration of timbre, texture and resonance) whilst on the other end of the spectrum we find works like The Blue Ice Cave by Australian composer Diana Blom that use both instruments in a highly idiomatic way as a kind of conduit to the manifold contrasts and pulsations of this ancient, atavistic land. In each instance, the composer invites us to join in exploring the unique ways in which Antarctica has, and continues to inspire, providing a sense of intimacy and closeness that makes this CD highly engaging on a number of levels, from the intrinsic to the extrinsic, the fragile and subtle to the inhospitable and provocative, the whimsical to the sublime…
The highly recognisable, unique timbre of the toy piano complements the grand piano extremely effectively, and I feel this is a real strength of the release. Rather than providing a compilation of purely toy piano repertoire instead of one that features the grand piano, a wonderful sense of timbral counterpoint unfolds throughout, enabling the listener to more fully appreciate the striking contrasts between the two instruments.
Some of the works feature the toy piano alone, enticing the audience to listen from a timbral, as well as harmonic and rhythmic perspective, as with Australian composer Nathan Wilson’s Heartbroken Star in the Dream Winds of Endless Night, Isola di memorie by Paolo Longo (Italy), Percorso A by compatriot Italian composer Stefano Procaccioli, Antarctica suite by Gian Paolo Luppi, also from Italy and the final (and appropriately idiosyncratic) Iceberg Variations by Australian composer Paul Smith.
Importantly, Loffredo performs these works meticulously, so enabling the audience to relish the eccentricity as well as vitality of this wonderful instrument.