DEBUSSY; HOSOKAWA Etudes
As with her 2013 ECM solo debut (1/14), Momo Kodama’s follow-up for the label aims to bridge cross-cultural influences between East and West, in Debussy’s 12 Études and six by Toshio Hosokawa. While Kodama’s mixing and matching of selections eliminates the careful contrasts and cumulative fulfilment of Debussy’s original running order, it allows one to absorb Hosokawa’s sparse and sometimes static musical language in appreciably small doses.
Kodama lavishes plenty of sensitivity and scrupulous detail upon Hosokawa’s Études, probably more than these skilful yet derivative works warrant. The title-track, ‘Point and Line’, features (you guessed it) pointillistic phrases and long sustained lines, sometimes with lots of space in between gestures, while sometimes piling upon each other. Kodama’s tonal shading of the jagged detached notes and carefully calibrated dynamics vivify the piano-writing tenfold. One might uncharitably describe the slow-moving ‘Melody’ as ‘Takemitsu on Quaaludes’, yet Kodama’s pellucid touch and subtle chord voicings save the day. She structures fitful, petulant outbursts of ‘Anger’ so that they dynamically cohere, and without a trace of banging.
Kodama’s readings of Debussy’s far more musically substantial and complex Études face strong competition. Her soft-grained ‘Pour les cinq doigts’ lacks Bavouzet’s lightness and sparkle (Chandos, 12/08), and she falls into the common trap of rushing the right-hand triplets at bars 12 and 14. ‘Pour les degrés chromatiques’, ‘Pour les huit doigts’ and the double-note études are well contoured, albeit without the crisp and angular profile of Uchida (Decca, 7/90) or Ju-Ying Song (ProPiano). Kodama projects No 11’s tenderness but not its sly humour, while No 12’s mysterious central section dies in suspended animation. However, Kodama’s understated yet fluent traversal of No 10 lets this music’s overlooked emotional depth speak for itself. ECM’s engineering is up to the label’s state-of-the-art standard.