Karen Walwyn

Karen Walwyn: Reflections on 9-11

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Pianist Karen Walwyn's Reflections on 9/11 is an hour-long suite in seven movements that expresses the composer's reactions to the horrific events of that day. It is a fluent and deeply felt composition that requires a formidable virtuosity to perform, but the writing is never showy just for its own sake. Walwyn uses advanced compositional techniques, but her musical language is accessible and directly communicative, so her work should appeal to broad audiences. She makes extensive use of repeated ostinato figures, particularly in the fast sections, that occasionally resemble minimalism, but she varies them enough that the music is rarely predictable. A recurring stylistic feature is a formidably difficult left-hand part over which she lays a simple melodic figure in the right hand. In the more somber movements, she displays an emotionally direct lyricism. Only one movement seems to break the mood she so expertly establishes in the rest of the piece. The fifth movement is a series of variations using a number of national styles to reflect the diversity of the victims of the attack, and some of its juxtapositions feel random and stylistically jarring. The final movement, however, a musical and emotional tour de force, brings the work to a powerful close. Walwyn's playing is virtuosic, and she fully succeeds in putting her music across with conviction and passion. The recording is clean and natural-sounding.

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