Sergei Zagny

Sonata Electronic Music, No. 5: Sonata Recontructed

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The Russian composer Sergei Zagny manages quite an interesting collection of his piano music, taking advantage of the traditional elements of classical piano music, as well as concepts associated with the avant-garde, such as electronics. The long "Sonata," written in 1990, is played by a top classical pianist, Anton Batagov, and does not sound like something written in 1990. In a series of blindfold tests, listeners familiar with classical music identified this as a piece by Liszt, Chopin, and even Brahms. It really is quite a triumphant wedding between Mr. Old and Miss New, since the traditional and cleverly constructed harmonic and melodic material is organized into dozens of vignettes that the performer chooses to either elaborate on or skip around in. This type of open form results in no two performances that are alike, a modern concept -- at least in classical music. For the pianist to be able to work in such a way -- but not be limited to the atonal or at least melodically challenged material that so often is the stock in trade of modern pieces -- is quite refreshing. The success of this performance, lasting more than 40 minutes, should hush up listeners who are skeptical about modernistic notions of allowing the performer a hand in the actual structure of a piece. Even more interesting is the "Electronic Music No. 5," which may bring to mind the madcap player-piano scrolls of Conlon Nancarrow. Phrases zip by as if the piano were being played by a crop duster, the subtle use of electronics allowing some of these passages to travel past the "real" piano keyboard to a place where only canines can communicate. "Sonata Reconstructed From Fragments the Order of Which Is Lost" has an enjoyable randomness to its structure, as well as a winning title, but hits the ear as a bit drab sounding.

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