Guild's Piano Works by Emmanuel Nunes & Rudolf Kelterborn features pianist See Siang Wong in works by Portuguese composer Nunes and Swiss composer Kelterborn. Both of these composers have maintained strong academic affiliations in Europe, Nunes with the Instituit für Neue Musik in Freiburg im Breisgau and the Paris Conservatoire and Kelterborn at the Musikhochschule Münster "Musik unserer Zeit." The Nunes work was composed in 1969-1971 and is in the form of an open score, whereas the Kelterborn work was produced in 2001-2004 and is notated down to the smallest detail. While there are some superficial similarities between these two composers, the main thing binding them is pianist See Siang Wong, who has established contact with these composers, the Kelterborn work being written specifically for him.
Wong is a specialist at playing hyper-difficult new music and is skilled in performing from an open score; that much is apparent in his handling of the two pieces of Nunes entitled Litanies du feu et de la mer, which requires more creative involvement from the interpreter than is the norm. Wong is equipped with ample ability to effectively perform such scores, and in the Kelterborn his work can be regarded as at least authoritative and possibly definitive. With the Nunes, represented here by pieces recorded once before by pianist Alice Ader for the Adda label, Wong is dealing with a deck that is stacked against him in the first of the Litanies du feu et de la mer, which is a rather weak open-form structure that sounds like bargain-basement Stockhausen. In one section, the piece is no more than a Morse code-like figure tapped out near the top of the keyboard with sour tone clusters pounded out in the bass; if a kind of artlessness is what Nunes was going for, he certainly achieved it here. The second piece is better; it represents a kind of "waking up" from the first work and is a little more engaging. In "Blurred" from Kelterborn's Piano Pieces 1-6 we can hear that Wong is able to project a sense of multi-dimensionality in his playing; he certainly has a lot of strength and stamina, but displays a capacity for sensitivity and warmth even in such thorny and foreboding literature. Kelterborn does favor some spectral effects and makes use of tonal referencing; "Kontrapunkte" departs from what might be suggested by such a title in that it is in the main quiet and restrained, whereas "Wintermusik" is quite lively with many rapid flurries of notes. Kelterborn's piano pieces contain many notable moments, and he has an extensive back catalog of compositions that have been recorded. Wong's performance is persuasive enough that it might inspire further investigation of Kelterborn's other works. Guild's recording is great; every nuance, no matter how distant or in your face a given nuance might be, is captured in uncanny clarity.