Regular readers of my blog know I love Jenny Lin’s terrific traversal of the Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87. Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to hear her play keyboard works of György Ligeti in Greenwich House Music School’s recital space.
Opening the program was Ligeti’s early piano cycle Musica Ricercata. The opening movement (Sostenuto–Misurato–Prestissimo) is built on a single pitch and its octaves until it “resolves to the tonic.” Each succeeding movement adds more pitches. Lin brought out the music’s mischievous, brash side along with the Bartókian rhythmic and melodic character and even a few portents of the Etudes. Lin played Continuum on a harpsichord much smaller than the instrument for which the work was written, yet with a few compensations for registration and mechanics the work came off to startling effect – including mechanical sounds of the harpsichord itself, in which I believe Ligeti himself would have delighted. Lin selected ten of Ligeti’s Etudes in such a way that there was emphatic contrast between adjoining works. I have to say that I enjoyed Lin’s performances a great deal more than Jeremy Denk’s recent traversal of most of books 1 and 2 at Zankel Hall. Denk’s a solid pianist, but his penchant for over-romanticizing the works was at the expense of the works’ taut structure. Lin brought plenty of virtuoso dynamism to these knuckle-busters along with a more convincingly direct, expository interpretive approach that didn’t stint on the etudes’ poetry, devilish humor, intensity, or homage to Nancarrow, Art Tatum, and Hungarian music.
The audience included a few notable new music performers and composers, and Lin got a prolonged ovation. As an encore, she played a selection for Mompou’s Música Callada (Silent Music), which she has just recorded in partnership with ArkivMusic and Steinway & Sons. I managed to snag an advance copy. The works, composed in the 1950s and ’60s rarely rise above a mezzo-piano, and the influence of Catalan music and Satie seem even more abundant here than in Mompou’s earlier piano works. Sound quality is excellent, Lin brings insightful playing to this demanding and beautiful cycle. If you like 20th century piano music, you will want this disc the moment it’s available. Street date is April 26th, and Lin will be playing a release date concert at (le) poisson rouge in the West Village.
UPDATE: Via Carol Finley comes word that iTunes is expected to release Silent Music tomorrow.