"For Cornelius" is a written solo piano piece (performed by Ursula Oppens) in honor of the late English composer Cornelius Cardew, who died tragically in 1981 in a hit and run accident. Cardew, over the course of his brief career, had evolved from an extreme modernist from the Stockhausen tradition to a believer in bringing music to "the people," basing his work on recognizable themes and variations centered on leftist political songs. To an extent, Curran's composition echoes this stance, beginning with the very beautiful, song-like introduction and ending with a peaceful chorale. These sections bracket a roiling maelstrom of gradually shifting harmonics that casts a complex glance at the minimalist school. "Era Ora" (an Italian phrase meaning "It's about time"), for two pianos, also approaches aspects of minimalism in unique ways. On the one hand, identical parts for the pianists are played at very slightly varying tempos resulting in the sort of phase patterns generated in the work of Steve Reich, among others. But Curran's sound is entirely different, far knottier and without recurring rhythms, though individual rhythmic cells abound. The harmonic clouds that ensue are more similar, if anything, to pieces by composers like Charlemagne Palestine. Curran is best known, perhaps, for his improvising work with groups such as Musica Elettronica Viva and his compositions utilizing tapes and real-time electronic interactions with improvising musicians. Fans of his work in those areas owe it to themselves to hear this engrossing album which focuses on a rarely seen side of this fascinating composer.
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AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick