Génia / Gabriel Prokofiev

Gabriel Prokofiev: Piano Book No. 1

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Gabriel Prokofiev is an English hip-hop artist and turntablist based in the U.K. whose grandfather just happens to have been Sergey Prokofiev. Prokofiev does not attempt to score points on the hip meter by disdaining the family business; on the contrary, he both embraces it and has founded the label NonClassical, the stated purpose of which is to present both non-classical and classical music, both presenting both as if it were not classical music, i.e. free of the tuxedo, chandelier and opera glass trappings associated with classical concert life. NonClassical artists are often heard in nightclubs rather than in the concert hall; NonClassical asserts that contemporary music is being seen as relevant again in the lives of the young, but they do not want to be herded into a concert hall wearing their Sunday best just to experience it. Perhaps it is an idea whose time has simply come, though one might argue that NonClassical might not be the first or only ones to have this idea, turf that they are attempting to claim.

Pianist GéNIA is a star in the NonClassical firmament and the author of a book entitled Piano-Yoga, which provides a holistic method to piano playing; like Prokofiev, she took a long hiatus from classical music performance during which she investigated the use of electronics and other techniques. NonClassical's Gabriel Prokofiev: Piano Book No. 1 demonstrates both artists moving into the classical sphere, though as advertised it isn't quite what one might expect from someone with the name "Prokofiev." The basic building blocks of the music and harmonic preferences of Gabriel Prokofiev often hearken back to his grandfather's music and that aspect of it is both welcome and in some ways familiar. However, those expecting a lean, neo-classical thread of typical formal development schemes are in for a disappointment, as Prokofiev does not use these, preferring a more spontaneous, fragmented and loose-limbed way of telling the story more in line with Satie or the English composer John White. However, there are movements, such as "Tough Moves" and "Fky House," which are driven by rhythm in a manner reminiscent of the beats of a DJ or the thrashing of a hard rock guitarist.

Although this set of pieces was written to GéNIA's special qualities, it's kind of hard to tell what she's like as a pianist from this, as so much of the music seems to be written at the same mezzo-forte to forte level there's not a lot of light and shade so much as relative density. Nevertheless, the music does grow on the listener and Prokofiev's work is a calculated step outside of the usual piano collection, whether or not one subscribes to NonClassical's particular brand of hype.

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