The American Innovator

Author: 
Peter Dickinson

The American Innovator

  • It takes twelve to tango
  • Playing for Time
  • Bacchanale
  • Aeolian Harp
  • Exultation
  • Vestiges
  • Piano Study in Mixed Accents
  • Synchronisms No. 6
  • (4) Roman Sketches, The white peacock
  • (4) Roman Sketches, The fountain of the Acqua Paolo
  • Tango seen from Ground Level (for Milo)
  • Study No. 20
  • China Gates
  • Prelude
  • A la Chinoise
  • Seven
  • Ruby my dear

This is the latest of Alan Feinberg's American anthologies on Argo, all of which I have enjoyed. The first (2/91) was a rather odd mixture of salon pieces by Beach and Gottschalk with works by Feinberg's teacher, Robert Helps, played with refinement and well recorded. The second, called ''The American Virtuoso'' (5/93), contained more Beach and Gottschalk with some MacDowell and four of Grainger's eccentric transcriptions.
This third release is planned around American pioneers of various kinds and is a most attractive demonstration of Feinberg's versatility. Ornstein's A la chinoise is a more exploratory piece than his opulent, romantic cello sonata (10/93); Cowell's Aeolian Harp, with the piano strings strummed, contains a wrong chord at 1'08''—publishers please note!; Adams's China Gates is poetically repetitive.
The Griffes pieces are stylishly done, but there is a missing left-hand note in The white peacock at 0'10'' which should have been spotted. Feinberg gives us an infectiously rhythmic Bacchanale, Cage's first work for prepared piano; plays with electronic tape in Davidovsky's pretty Synchronism, and presumably copes with both parts in Shapey's less endearing Seven.
Thelonious Monk's Ruby my dear slightly lacks tenderness, but Ives's muscle-stretching Study No. 20 is a wow—try the blatant ragtime at 2'51'' and follow its exhilarating contortions. Feinberg makes Babbitt sound bearable, especially in tango rhythm—he has recorded the Piano Concerto—and Cowell's Vestiges looks like a first recording, although the Irish lilt of Exultation plus clusters is more fun. The whole programme is admirably calculated as a sequence of generous length which comes off, even if the piano sound is at times a bit tight and close.'

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