Accessible Contemporary Piano Works Sewn Together
Hanging By A Thread Matthew McCright, piano. Proper Canary Total Time: 58:54 Recording: ****/**** Performance: ****/****
Pianist Matthew McCright’s new album Hanging By A Thread features performances of seven contemporary works. Most of the pieces were composed since 2010, with one earlier work by Paul Dresher from 1995 wrapping things up.
To Spill Oneself Away (2021), by Dorothy Hindman, opens the album with a high register cascade of repeated whirls that has the quality of slightly-shattering glass. It is a perpetual motion work with these ideas transferred across the keyboard moving from the top through middle to lower registers and back out again in a frenzy of activity. The technical demands are handled excellently here in this compelling opener to the disc. In Alican Camci’s (…with the sound of a ripe fruit—falling…) (2021), dense, jazz-like harmonies diverge into more complex sounds as a small pattern fragment appears insistently as bass notes. It all dies away in the end of this brief miniature.
The sole multi-movement work is As Far As You Can Stretch It (2019) by Andrea Mazzariello. The opening “Prelude” is a more post-minimalist style with a repeated motif and bare harmonic ideas. The pop/jazz feel of these harmonies lends the music in this work a more improvisational quality in a mostly tonal language of repeated ideas. Overall it is a quite engaging work. The composer’s Your Hands, As They Are (2021) is presented as a penultimate track here and gives another entry point to their engaging and accessible language that has in these works a more reflective quality.
The earlier works on the release include two pieces from 2010. The first of these is a calming Intermezzo from Takuma Itoh which has a somewhat diffuse quality filled with ambiguity. Kristen Soriano’s Echoes explores resonance and sound which become the focus for the listener as discerning these more ambient sustains create their own overtones. Both have a sort of arabesque like quality reminiscent of early 20th-Century French music (i.e. Satie, Debussy). The album ends with Paul Dresher’s Blue Diamonds (1995) serves as an appropriate bookend to the opening work on the album. It is full of virtuosic demands from technical requirements in many passages. Rhythmic interplay and shifting metric ideas are also used to great effect.
There is not a lot of information in the release about the composers or even the works themselves. Fortunately, these are fairly accessible pieces whose titles can provide enough guidance for the listener to make their own thoughts up about what is being communicated in these works. McCright’s performances make an excellent case for all of these pieces and they work well together as a group in a well-sequenced release. The sound of the Steinway D piano is also captured well with a bit of ambience from the hall location where it was recorded. Hanging By A Thread should be of interest to those intrigued by new musical voices and works for piano in the present age.