ANTHONY BURGESS (1917-1993): The Bad-Tempered Electronic Keyboard (24 Preludes and Fugues), Finale: Natale 1985.
Catalogue Number: 02T051
Label: Grand Piano
Description: Don't be misled by the title, a typically Burgessian multi-layered joke; this is a 'proper' set of Preludes and Fugues in all the keys, written in homage to Bach on his 300th anniversary. The electronic keyboard in question was a 1985 horror by Casio which Burgess installed in his Monaco apartment, which offered preset sounds including 'frog' and 'funny' in addition to the more customary timbres associated with keyboards. The pieces are very accomplished, like all Burgess' music, and thoroughly enjoyable. Each has its own distinct character; a large proportion share characteristics with their Baroque models, especially the 48, though others are more modern, some seemingly nodding to Shostakovich's 1950-51 set. The popular piano that the composer's father played, the blues, and other passing fancies of the polyglot composer-author also put in guest appearances, and wit, cunning humour and unexpected twists abound - this is after all the music of the author who has a character in one of his novels, when compelled to speak on Nazi radio improvise an acrostic that decoded as "May Hitler rot in Hell" by way of an invented quotation from Marcus Aurelius. If you find that utterly delightful, then this disc, and the similar sleights of hand to be found in 05R010 and 08S044, will give great pleasure. Another example; the composer wrote "This is a bad fugue" under No.17. It isn't, though it is less formally 'correct' than most; and if he really thought so, what was to stop him replacing it? Here Burgess is posing as the stuffy old counterpoint teacher he never had, and like the various "inaccuracies" in his autobiography and certain novels, put there as snares for the literal-minded, this is as much about the composer amusing himself as anything else. The set ends with a coda - a fugue on three Christmas carols written just in time for Christmas 1985. Stephane Ginsburgh (piano).