Dutch Pianists Quartet

Works for Two Pianos, Eight Hands

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The four pianists here -- Marian Bolt, Ciren van den Berg, Niek de Vente, and Robert Nasveld -- have committed themselves to a program of music by 20th century composers, beginning with Ravel and ending with Nasveld. In between are such vanguard luminaries as Graham Fitkin, Theo Loevendie, Ton Brunyel, and François-Bernard Mâche. Nasveld's title piece in three movements opens the recording. Movement one is a series of slowly stated melodic fragments that are entirely comprised of overlapping arpeggios, played very slowly. They stutter each other as they overlap in the middle register. When the fantasia begins in the center of the movement, high register clusters and trills link harmonically with cascading yet spare scales. In the middle movement crescendos and long droning held notes in the lower register subvert, harmonically and exponentially expanding on the original melodic idea in favor of playing through the middles of each statement and then inverting them in interval. The final movement is centered on half the players offering various planks and stages of legato developments along a strident harmonic line in the upper register and on down. Loevendie's piece is a playful example of how the mechanics of eight hands on two keyboards works; all signatures and figures are in tandem, with tags being written at the codas to illuminate the melodic features that just passed. Ravel's "Frontispiece" is completely extraneous here and should have been left off the program. The set ends with two works by Fitkin that utilize the restraint on dexterity eight hands must provide to make it through an exercise fluently and without error. These are more exercises than compositions, yet they are open and sonorous in their middle register interplay and pedal points. In all, this is an exhausting but rewarding listening experience with fine, warm, natural sound.

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