Spectrum 4 - Miniatures for Solo Piano
These 66 miniatures, lasting from half a minute to just over three minutes, were commissioned and published by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. They are designed for their composers “to write technically approachable pieces in which the essence of their concert music is distilled”.
There’s not as much variety as might be expected from a truly international roster of composers, although four of them have added electroacoustics to enrich the simple piano part. The consensus forms around a contemplative mood arising from sustained sounds. Many pieces lack the kind of continuity that gives a beginner something to get hold of, as in Bartók’s Mikrokosmos or Satie’s Enfantines. Some established figures – including Alun Hoddinott, Peter Maxwell Davies, Colin Matthews, Giles Swayne and Stephen Montague – understand this and deliver. Others bring folk traditions from various parts of the world – Cyprus (Faidros Kavallaris), Brazil (Alexandre Lunsqui) and Portugal (João Pedro Olivera). Bells are imaginatively evoked by Simon Bainbridge, Martin Butler, Elena Langer and Poul Ruders.
The longer pieces with electroacoustic effects benefit from the extra scope – the lovely tinkling percussion of Joyce Koh, Barry Conyngham’s poetic birdsong and the resonances of Per Magnus Lindborg. There is attractive melody from John McLeod, rare triads from Pavel Novák, Webernian brevity from Roger Redgate, a Copland sound from the Indonesian Abanda Sukarlan, and an impertinent one-minute Sonata No 140 from John White.
In the booklet we could have done with less biography and something to explain the occasionally obscure titles. All stylishly played and well recorded.