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What is even more impressive is that Small, who can -- as his recitals in London, Paris and elsewhere in Europe and America have proved -- turn his hand to Spanish, South American, French (Alkan), Hungarian (Liszt) and German repertoire with equal assurance, purity of presentation and an astonishing clarity of detail one might usefully compare with, say, Bernard Roberts's masterly Beethoven or Kristian Zimerman's Debussy, is such a fine, thinking and original composer as well. Original, though not in the sense that he is chasing after a wholly new and 'individual' self-expression or 'originality' in the manner of, say, Schoenberg or Debussy. Rather, like a Krenek or Peter Racine Fricker, Haskell Small finds a new and refined classicism in simple counterpoint, clear textures and refined patterning.

Haskell Small. Photo © Sarah Small
Haskell Small. Photo © Sarah Small

One could quote Bartók (both violin and piano pieces), or the songs of Musorgsky -- both lie in the hinterland of this refined and intelligent composer-pianist, who can deftly and cheekily turn the jigginess of Barber or Copland into something akin to the sonorities of the Great Gate of Kiev, yet has the clear-headedness of a Sessions too. Prelude 7 [listen -- track 15, 0:00-0:43] is another good example of Small in more jazzy, cheerful vein (see also Prelude 20 [listen -- track 18, 1:14-1:52]). I was knocked out by these effortlessly brilliant pieces when I first heard them; and I still am.

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Copyright © 9 March 2005 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK


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