For the third instalment in their ‘Concerti’ series, the GrauSchumacher Piano Duo bring together three works, the first two written in close proximity. Poulenc’s Concerto in D minor (1932) is typical of its composer’s earlier music in using classical and popular idioms so their abrupt alternation becomes its own justification. This account emphasises the breezy neoclassical framework giving focus to the frequent high jinks, and if the Larghetto’s Mozartian pathos is underplayed, the gamelan patterning at the close of its predecessor feels undeniably hypnotic.
Balinese gamelan was central to Colin McPhee when he composed Tabuh Tabuhan (1936). This toccata for a ‘collection of percussion instruments’ combines indigenous textures and harmonies with a Stravinskian incisiveness and a jazzy rhythmic freedom to the fore in the propulsive outer movements. It is here that this duo are heard at their commanding best, while missing out on some of the mystery that can make the central Nocturne so spellbinding.
Similar interpretative qualities are found in Grand Pianola Music (1982), one of the pieces that ensured John Adams’s reputation and whose leavening of its minimalist aesthetic with elements drawn from pop and gospel – not to mention audibly Beethovenian figuration – has proved influential and popular. Persuasive in those long-breathed cumulative spans of the first part, GrauSchumacher feel a little inert in the limpid eloquence of its postlude or the charismatic immediacy of what comes next. Yet the ingenious conception of this collection is undeniable, and those keen to hear these works outside of their usual recorded context need not hesitate.