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Piano Men

Last night I attended a great big concert in a teeny tiny space … American Modern Ensemble, recently started up and expertly run by Rob and Victoria Paterson, produced an evening of new American piano works, showcasing the two best pianists in town (in town no doubt—best in the world I would imagine, I just haven’t heard them all yet…) Blair McMillen and Stephen Gosling. Both are musicians of such compelling stature, that it’s difficult to elaborate on the brilliance of these guys (full disclosure, both are school chums)—needless to add that I go hear them play whenever possible. But it was also the first time I’ve had a chance to hear them on the same program, that is, back to back, so that you could easily A/B their stylistic differences, and that made for a particularly fun concert.

There was a large menu that evening, representative of many disparate 20th-century techniques and styles (this was Rob’s programming theme, and it worked well), but despite the general level of high quality, taste is taste, and pieces did pop out to me as strikingly good: Steve played a set of miniatures, including a Nancarrow tango and a David Rakowski etude which were both really terrific, and Blair played George Tsontakis‘s wonderful Bagatelle—excellent and par for the course for George, who I think I’ve said before, I’m pretty sure doesn’t know how to write bad music. The top two for the evening though were Chester Biscardi‘s Piano Sonata, a lush, romantic, Ruggles/Ivesian/Sessions-type concoction which stuck-out stylistically in the programming more than a bit and so stayed with me the whole evening, and Annie Gosfield‘s Brooklyn, October 5, 1941, a barn-burning pounder of a piece played with baseballs and catcher’s glove. Yes, more than a little gimmicky, but who cares really because the piece actually works great, and Blair absolutely sold it. Not a frown in the house after McMillen played the Gosfield—everyone had a big slap-happy smile on their face.

In other odds/ends, ye old printer finally found its final resting place today. I choked up a little as I walked away from its forlorn perch atop that giant pile of off-white circuitry (why is every piece of non-audio electronics that color?)… but told myself it’s for the best. At least it will now be recycled into another fun piece of consumer goods. The circle of life…

And here’s more, in-depth, on that intriguing Tower commission-consortium I mentioned last week.

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