Uri Kassyanik

Music of Tuesdays: One

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Following the Russian tradition of musical soirees, Uri Kassyanik presented solo performances on successive Tuesdays during one of his sojourns in the United Kingdom, and this compact disc is the sometimes masterful result. The performance demonstrates the artist's ability at creating what he and many others refer to as spontaneous compositions, meaning these solos are totally improvised, which in the case of the nearly 50-minute "The Fifteenth Tuesday" is nothing if not an ambitious undertaking. An experienced composer of symphonic works, Kassyanik has the concentration and mind for details to make this performance more than just a bunch of unrelated musical developments coming out of a pushy energy flow. If anything, energy and intensity is subdued. The long track opens the program, Kassyanik warming up slowly by creating synth improvisations over a drum-machine groove, a decision that will indeed be treacherous in terms of those listeners who give a recording the thumbs up or down, depending on its first few minutes. Things get more interesting as the piece proceeds. Ten minutes in, the volume becomes more and more subdued, and the composer creates lovely passages of string sounds that are quite moving. There is heightened tension between the sort of calm and relaxation suggested by clear melodic movement or somewhat pretty chords and the anxiety of the performer suddenly inserting a crashing, dissonant harmony. Even better are strange interludes where the music drifts into odd sound effects or passages that seem to have nothing to do with anything else that has happened, and in that sense plant a seed of wonder in the listener's brain. Another marvelous thing about this set is the low volume passages in which the performer's use of space and silence create the sense of a vast distance, sometimes simply waiting to be conquered by a series of effectively grabbing acoustic-piano passages. By having a wide range of keyboard sounds at his disposal, and combining these with the sounds of actual instruments, Kassyanik is able to create quite a fascinating range of textures, although this performance is somewhat less demonstrative of these skills than some of the others in his massive discography. The set is filled out with several shorter pieces, both excerpts from the "The Fifth Tuesday."

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