Saturday, November 19, 2016

Daniele Lombardi Plays Lourié, Ornstein & Antheil

Nuova Era's Futurpiano features Italian pianist Daniele Lombardi in a classic collection of futurist piano music, a special subgenre within 1910s-1920s modernism that shares some parallels with early trends in modern art that also utilized the "futurist" tag. Lombardi has spent decades researching and uncovering futurist literature and has singlehandedly revived much lost music from the Italian futurist school ; this disc, however, deals with Russian and American composers and deals with things not necessarily "lost," but is perceived as belonging to the mainstream of the genre.
Starting off Futurpiano is Russian composer Arthur Lourié, whose early music is Scriabin influenced, though closer superficially to middle period John Cage. Lourié's idealistic and highly experimental pieces such as Synthèses (1914) and Formes en l'air (1915) — the latter dedicated to Picasso — abandons metrical organization and spreads their Scriabinesque gestures over a blank canvas of otherwise empty bars. In the mid-teens, this was a revolutionary statement at that time as only Satie was thinking along the same lines, though in Satie's case he was merely avoiding having to work out unevenly matched phrases. With Lourié, there are relatively few phrases and the music mainly consists of disconnected periods and gestures seemingly hanging in space. The spontaneity and idealism represented by Lourié's early music ultimately gives way to a worldly and somewhat cynical take on neo-classicism later in his career, no doubt reflecting his émigré status after defecting from Soviet Russia in the early '20s. However, these early Lourié pieces are essential to the Russian futurist canon.
Leo Ornstein was from a completely different side of the tracks from Lourié, who was an autodidact ; Ornstein had studied for several years at the St. Petersburg Conservatory as pianist, being steeped in the Russian piano tradition. It wasn't until after he'd lived in the United States for some years that he developed his futurist piano style, which according to his own account, came to him like a bolt from the blue. Ornstein's music of this time — particularly the notorious Suicide in an Airplane (1913) — is violently dissonant, yet its pianistic approach and technical preferences can be tied back to the Russian piano school that educated him. Ornstein's ability as a pianist affords him the opportunity to punch the technical grade of pieces like A la Chinoise (1918) into the stratosphere ; this is the only place on the disc where Lombardi seems to struggle a little, but one can hardly blame him, as its level of difficulty is undeniably ridiculous.
George Antheil joined the futurist fray as the result of being cultivated by Ornstein's manager, who needed a replacement when Ornstein burned out being the premier futurist concert pianist, dropping out around 1920. Mechanisms (1923) and the generous selection from La femme 100 têtes (1932-1933) represents Antheil's solo piano music at its finest. The Mechanisms can be seen as a free fantasy on "The Sacrifice" section of Stravinsky's ballet Le Sacre du printemps, whereas La femme 100 têtes is a large collection of miniatures inspired by Max Ernst's book of surrealist collages assembled from nineteenth century woodcuts. If creating art that projects into the future truly was the object of futurism, then of these three composers George Antheil got it the most right ; his music sounds the most like what twenty first century music ultimately became, using free quotation, references to pop music, abrupt contrasts and "too short" sections, obsessive repetition, proto-rock rhythms, and other things that sound inordinately hip for music of the 1920s.
This remains the best recording made of Ornstein's Suicide in an Airplane, and these three figures represent the extremes of the style, even though there were many other players in the game, particularly on the Russian end of the equation. Moreover, Lourié's work is among the very earliest surviving representatives of the style, whereas Antheil's La Femme 100 têtes indeed may be among the very last ; with totalitarianism breaking out all over and the world in the grip of an economic depression, futurist style had nowhere to go by the early '30s. This valuable Nuova Era disc — long out of print — was reissued in 2009 on the LTM label.
Uncle Dave Lewis

Source : http://www.allmusic.com/album/futurpiano-mw0001821820

Daniele Lombardi
Futurpiano
Lourié
Ornstein
Antheil

Tracks

Arthur Vincent Lourié
(1892-1967)

Synthèses, Op 16
1 I. Lent  2:55
2 II. Modérément animé  2:12
3 III. Vite (aigu)  2:34
4 IV. Assez vite, mais toujours mesuré  1:23
5 V. Mesuré  1:56

Formes en l'air, 3 pieces for piano
(à Pablo Picasso)
6 N° 1  2:54
7 N° 2  3:03
8 N° 3  3:49

Leo Ornstein
(1892-2002)

9 Suicide in an Airplane  3:49

Three Moods
10 I. Anger  2:20
11 II. Grief  3:29
12 III. Joy  2:59

13 A la Chinoise, Op. 39  4:06

George Antheil
(1900-1959)

Sonatina "The Death oh machines"
(Sonata III, Berlin-Paris)
14 I. Languor  5:59
15 II. Nocturnal  3:45
16 III. Prestissimo staccato - adagio  2:52

La Femme 100 Têtes
20 preludes inspired by etchings of Max Ernst, W. 60
17 Thoughtfully, not too slow  1:23
18 Thoughtfully, not too slow  1:12
19 Faintly energetic  1:11
20 Furioso  0:18
21 Floating  0:57
22 Sad  0:58
23 Electrical, spiccato  0:48
24 Sad  1:38
25 Slightly, brutal tempo  0:35
26 Nostalgic, twisted, slowly  1:54
27 Slowly  1:54
28 Lights flashing  1:05
29 Minuet ?  0:45
30 Onward christian soldiers  1:29
31 Sad  1:18
32 Mystic tempo  2:16
33 Furioso  0:19
34 Nostalgic  1:01
35 A machine  1:14
36 Cruel, quick  0:34

*

Daniele Lombardi - p

Recorded at Auditorio della RSI, Lugano (Lourié, Ornstein) ; Studi Edipan, Roma (Antheil) ; 1995 ?

6 comments:

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