Sunday, July 12, 2009
Oppens sparkles - Carter baffles
Ursula Oppens is a magnificent pianist who has conquered the numerous challenges of contemporary composers. Oppens has built a terrific reputation with her incisive playing of works by Anthony Braxton, John Harbison, György Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Conlon Nancarrow, Frederic Rzewski, Joan Tower, Charles Wuorinen, and many other composers. Last year, Cedille Records released an album, "Oppens Plays Carter," in which Oppens performed all of the piano works of Elliott Carter, and her talent at the keyboard is unquestionably brilliant.
Yet the music of Carter remains a mystery to this reviewer. The sporadic and unconnected quality of each piece in this recording just doesn't resonate with me. Perhaps if one of the pieces had even the tiniest snippet of lyricism or harmony, then I would be able to relax my ears and enjoy the unrelenting, scattershot of notes that dominates each work. After thirty minutes, the spiky quality of Carter's music becomes tiresome. When I look at a picture of Carter, who was born in 1908 and is still composing new works, I see someone who looks like a benign grandpa, but his music is not avuncular at all. Oppens's scintillating playing of Carter's music deserves the highest praise. I'll try listening to the album again at a later date and see if I can warm up to it.