Benjamin Van Esser / Marc Masson / Elisa Medinilla

Frank Nuyts: 3 Sonatas for Piano

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There is a fearsome intellectual substructure to these three contemporary piano sonatas by composer Frank Nuyts, but they are conversely tonal in sound, clear in organization, and quite accessible. The paradox lies at the heart of this unique music, which accomplishes the considerable feat of working within traditional forms and instrumentation but sounding entirely unlike anything else out there. Annotator Yves Senden writes that Nuyts in these works "states his individual tension within the field of tension that exists between modernism and postmodernism." Indeed, there are aspects of both in the music, and Nuyts is one of the first composers to attempt a thorough insertion of vernacular elements into music with a complex systematic basis. Whether the whole enterprise holds together is for history to decide, but the listening experience is fascinating. Briefly, these sonatas sound something like what might have happened if George Gershwin had followed through on his plans to take composition lessons from Europe's great intellects, had ended up with Webern, and then had lived long enough to somehow witness and absorb the birth of minimalism and even its encounter with techno music. The individual movements clearly define their own tonal centers, are divided into sections with roughly the contrasting relationships of traditional sonata form, use lengthy passages of repeated notes to establish musical layers, and make frequent reference to blues and jazz. Sample it, and you may well want to enter the labyrinth. Booklet notes are in Dutch, English, German, and French; they include biographies of the three different pianists (one for each sonata), but not even a nationality for Nuyts himself; he is apparently a Belgian Fleming.

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