Veryan Weston

Tessellations for Luthéal Piano

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Veryan Weston is mostly known as a free improv pianist. That's why Tessellations serves up two major surprises. First, the title piece (the only one on the disc) is an hourlong conceptual work based on a suite of 52 related pentatonic scales. Second, it is performed on the Luthéal piano of the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium. Invented by George Cloetens around 1918, it is a regular grand piano equipped with a mechanism that adds stops, much like a church organ. One stop lowers a row of contact quills a millimeter above the strings, giving a harpsichord effect; another stop moves thin pieces of felt onto the exact middle of the strings, producing a gamelan-like sound. Each stop has independent bass and treble registers. Only a handful of copies of this expanded piano were manufactured and it is believed that the one at the MIM is the last of its kind. Invited to present a performance on it, Weston chose his "Tessellations," a piece that explores every harmonic nook and cranny of the instrument. One hour in duration, it moves seamlessly from one scale to the next, creating interlocking patterns embellished by improvisation. Somewhere between virtuosic, voluble free improvisation (think Borah Bergman), sped-up American minimalism, and Lou Harrison's pieces for gamelan, the piece can be both exhilarating and charming. It appears to be running for too long, but it succeeds in convincing the listener of the necessity of such a duration. An enhanced portion of the CD contains valuable theoretical background on pentatonic scales.

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