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Of the shorter pieces the Three Dances are a small treasure, especially the last one, which sees the pianist hitting a repeated chord with the right hand while intermittently beating a drum and a glass with the left [listen -- track 6, 0:07-1:00]. I would love to see it danced.

But the major work on the CD, and it is a major work, is the Two Pieces for Three Pianos. Written in 1966 it is published, and has therefore been in the public domain for nearly forty years, and yet this, apparently, is the first recording of it. This is either a monumental oversight, or a great piece of discovery, whichever way you choose to look at it. It's rather like someone announcing there's a country the map-makers have overlooked.

Describing these pieces is hard. It's not merely that there are no direct verbal equivalents to the sounds we hear, but that we are in a sound-world that evokes no obvious comparisons. For me, at least, no other music is quite like this. The best I can do is to evoke the visual arts, as indeed Debora Petrina does in her own commentary, equating the clusters of sound which emerge with clots of paint on canvas. My own parallel is three-dimensional: the large mobiles of Alexander Calder. They are conceived on a grand scale. They are made of welded metal, yet suspended they appear almost weightless. Despite the variety of individual shapes, the whole hangs in perfect equilibrium, its balance entirely dependent on the linking wires. Because they are both three dimensional and not fixed in space, each encounter offers a new, and shifting perspective. Out of the limitations of the raw material and its shaping emerges almost infinite variety. Above all, perhaps, there is no beginning and no end.

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Copyright © 28 February 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


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