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American spiritual

Marilyn Nonken
plays new piano works,
investigated by KEITH BRAMICH

CRI    CD 877

Marilyn Nonken - American Spiritual (p) 2001 Composers Recordings Inc


American pianist Marilyn Nonken plays four works written for her at the end of the twentieth century. They share the rhythmic complexity and abstract late 20th century language which will be familiar if you know the music of Michael Finnissy (born 1947), whose English Country Tunes, reviewed by Wilfrid Mellers in M&V, made a big impression on the pianist.

Chelsea Square (1999) by Jeff Nichols (born 1957) takes its name from a poem by Douglas Crase which conjures up an image of millennial Manhattan. The music is rather lyrical, and has a certain stillness [listen -- track 1, 12:13-13:08]. Nonken, writing her own CD notes, describes it as having a 'quirky, riddle-like structure' and says that it rewards multiple hearings.

Jason Eckardt's Echoes' White Veil (1996) sounds chaotic, jazzy and fragmented. It was apparently written without barlines, and, inspired by Echoes, a prose poem by W S Merwin, beginning 'Everything we hear is an echo', it explores the relationships between the past, the present and the future.

In North American Spirituals (1998), Finnissy uses the songs that Tippett featured in A Child of Our Time. These recognisable melodies appear in fragmentary form, in an Ivesian work which pays homage to experimentalism and black tradition in American culture.

Allegro penseroso (1999) by the ever-controversial Milton Babbitt (born 1916) is again complex and full of energy, offering a bewildering array of inventive ideas.

Nonken plays throughout with superb clarity and accuracy.


Copyright © 12 January 2002 Keith Bramich, London, UK







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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Saturday series of shorter CD reviews