Original Compositions and Transcriptions in the Tradition of Nancarrow 2

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The booklet to this audiophile release from the fine German label MDG is one of those that future historians might well look to as source material; it contains a wealth of detail (in English, French, and German) on the music and its various connections to the great figure of player piano music, American-Mexican composer Conlon Nancarrow. Two pieces directly pay homage to Nancarrow. Francis Bowdery's Canon 10/27/12/80 embodies rations pertaining to Nancarrow's birthdate and age that would be physically impossible for a human player to realize, while Gerhard Staebler's playmanic, the only work not written for one of the pair of 1920s player pianos owned by restorer Jürger Hocker, represents the Mexico City local where Nancarrow spent his later years. The various Ligeti compositions included were not originally written for player piano, but this does not militate in the least against their inclusion; the composer indicated their suitability for player piano transcription, suggested a few physically unplayable variants for such versions, and worked with Hocker on the adaptation. Indeed, these pieces, located on the border between acoustic and electronic music, clearly show the role of electronics in Ligeti's musical thinking and are perhaps the most interesting works on the disc; the 12 Formen für Player Piano of Japanese composer Kiyoshi Furukawa are too freighted down with mathematical concepts. Earlier releases in MDG's series are devoted to the "classic" literature of player piano music from before World War II and may make better choices for those with casual interest, but devotees of this odd technology will find the album of interest.

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