Player Piano 7: Conlon Nancarrow, Vol. 4

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This is the fourth volume in MDG's traversal of the complete music of Conlon Nancarrow for player piano(s). The composer was personally involved in this project at its inception, so it's safe to say that these recordings are authoritative. Even though the pitches and their exact relationships are encoded on piano rolls, there is still room for interpretation in the sound of the piano used, and in the tempos, so the composer's work on the project was critical. The fact that Nancarrow's fragile piano rolls have been carefully preserved and duplicated, and that instruments have been restored to play this music is largely due to the devotion of J├╝rgen Hocker of the International Society of Automated Musical Instruments. The studies featured here, numbers 42 through 48, come from late in the series, which included 51 pieces. It's not surprising that given the parameters to which the composer tended to limit himself, which largely involved the use of canons in complex ratios, he sometimes tended to repeat familiar patterns, so the studies aren't consistent in their impact. Some, like the three-movement No. 45, also known as "The Second Boogie-Woogie Suite, have a jazzy insouciance that's immediately appealing. No. 47 is sonically dazzling for its remarkable speed and textural density. Others, like No. 44, sound like the restatement of earlier formulas. Overall, though, it's a remarkable body of work, and Hocker and MDG are to be commended for bringing it to life with such care. MDG's sound is characteristically immaculate: clean and natural, with a good sense of presence.

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