WILLIAM BLANK (b.1957): Ebben(n), Exodes, Reflecting Black for Piano and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 03Q075
Reference: AECD 1542
Description: Blank's idiom is complex, nuanced and detailed in an atonal language that not infrequently admits the expanded harmony and texture afforded by micro-intervals. Perhaps paradoxically, this does not render the music unapproachable or difficult to 'follow', because the basic material - commonly well-defined pitch groups, not used serially - is memorable and readily identifiable, despite the complex processes to which it is subjected; because frequent instrumental solos provide 'threads' as guides through the labyrinthine complexities of the scores; and because alongside the intricate interweavings of instrumental lines, the composer regularly has recourse to surging, organic, oceanic tutti, giving the music an inexorable forward momentum and massiveness. The large piano concerto, in two movements, or 'tableaux', of 2009 is the major work here, as big as the other two, earlier but no less impressive, pieces together. It was inspired by the paintings of Pierre Soulages, whose large, predominantly black canvases treat subtle gradations in reflected light as a medium in its own right. Beginning with the obvious analogy of the deepest bass tones and the darkest of colors, the work develops a huge range of texture and fluidity of event. The orchestra often mirrors or follows the piano, acting like a gigantic multi-timbred resonator, extending and amplifying components of the soloist's complex and intricate, gestural utterances, selectively sustaining and elaborating groups of notes, harmonies, harmonics and resonances into new timbral material in a way that electronic manipulation of the actual piano sound could not begin to approach. The opening of the second movement exemplifies this process very clearly, as the initial material is presented in open, simple texture; the piano sets out an extensive melody, shadowed by its quarter-tone tuned doppelgänger, while the orchestra generates harmonic refractions around it. The movement progresses through several sections, based on the opening material, including a striking, percussively rhythmic perpetuum mobile in asymmetrical, irregularly accented mutating ostinato figuration. The dark colors of the opening return, illuminated by harsh reflections and progressively fading gleams of light in the shadowy timbral harmony of quarter-tones. David Lively (piano), Orchestre de la Suisse Romande; Pascal Rophé.