Wednesday 23 January 2013

CD review - Keyboard3

Sergio Cervetti Keyboard3 works for piano, harpsichord and organ
Uruguayan-American composer Sergio Cervetti's new disc Keyboard3 presents six works written in the last 25 years for three different keyboards, piano, harpsichord and organ. Covering a wide variety of subjects, from the dead of the Falklands war, the Antarctic and Gustave Dore's illustrations for Milton's Paradise Lost. Each different movement is in effect a character piece, each evokes a single mood, all challenge the performer in a variety of ways.

The disc opens with Tres Estudios Australes written in 1989, each dealing with an aspect of the Southern Hemisphere, Cervertti's birthplace. The first movement, Sangre en Flor en las Malvinas (Young Blood in the Falklands), is an homage to the soldiers fallen during the 1982 Falklands War. A constant arpeggio texture but with disturbing extra elements; the result is rather dramatic and not elegiac. The second movement  El Agujero en el Cielo de la Antartida (The Hole in the Sky of the Antarctic) evokes the Antarctic and man's destruction. The opening is minimal and disjointed, single expressionist phrases. Though it develops, but the result evokes the sparseness of the Antarctic, with some surprising hints of RVW's Seventh Symphony. After a climax, then all dies away. The final movement Las Nubes de Magallanes (The Magellan Clouds), is a noisy 'wrong note' toccata with a lively rhythmic undertow. Karolina Rojahn's playing is admirable throughout, and she has good technical command of all three pieces, all three of which require a degree of skill and control, with the first movement being notated on three stave. Taken together these form a varied and satisfying group.

The next group of three pieces are unrelated, except that each is for harpsichord. Alberada, written in 1993, refers to Sebastian Albero, an 18th century Spanish composer who was a pioneer of composing 'without the
tyranny of bar lines'. The sound world, as a result of the harpsichord timbre, is rather neo-classical but
expressive in its dissonance. Next comes Hard Rock, (written in 1993), a toccata-like piece with Prokofiev-style rock-rhythms, incessant and obsessive. Finally in this group Candombe (written in 1984). which is the national dance of Uruguay. A piece which is fast and furious, intense and, again, toccata-like. It is also an amazing tour-de-force from harpsichordist Maria Teresa Chenlo.

Seven Farewells to Paradise, written in 2012 is seven movements, each based on an image from Milton's Paradise Lost as imagined by Gustave Dore: (1) O Adam one Almighty is, from whom all things proceed, (2) A happy rural seat of various view, (3) Under a tuft of shade that on a green stood whispering soft, (4) Him the Almighty Power hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky, (5) Wave rolling after wave, (6) Then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, (7) Passacaglia: They hand in hand ... through Eden took their solitary way.  The opening movement is contemplative and melodic, but with harmonically spicy bits. As the piece develops, the music whilst remaining melodic, becomes more strenuous, reaching a climax in the fourth movement with the demonstration of God's power. The flowing waves of the fifth movement are slightly marred by a clangy piano. The quietly romantic penultimate movement leads to the very formal passacaglia with its ground bass. The composer himself gives a finely crafted performance of the piece.

The disc concludes with In Principio Erat Verbum for organ, written in 2005. A baroque style prelude, written as a companion to an a cappella choral work. It is played on the 1745 organ at Olomouc in the Czech Republic.

Cervetti has written electronic music and in the repeated, obsessive rhythms and toccata-like structures I wanted to hear echoes of this world. Also, there are hints of the repetitive developmental structures used by minimalist composers, but there is certainly nothing minimalist about Cervetti's world. As he plays the Seven Farewells to Paradise himself, we deduce that his is a fine pianist and as such, his keyboard music is idiomatic whilst remaining challenging and, I would hope, rewarding for the performers. 

As with other Navona discs, if you put the disc into your computer you can access a variety of extras, including a longer version of the Cd booklet, scores of the pieces and video of the final piece on the disc. The scores are available for download in PDF's giving the possibility that listeners might decide to try out for themselves Cervetti very challenging but rewarding keyboard writing. There is a sampler for the disc on Youtube.

This is a delightful disc, with some very strong instrumental playing from all concerned, contains some well contrasted highly characterful movements. Highly recommended.


Sergio Cervetti - Works for piano, harpsichord and organ

Tres Estudios Australes [25:36] (1)
Alberada [5.54] (2)
Hard Rock [5.04] (3)
Candombe [7.06] (4)
Seven Farewells to Paradise [21.07] (5)
In Principio Erat Verbum [7.06] (6)
Karolina Rojahn (piano) (1)
Maria Teresa Chenlo (harpsichord) (2,3,4)
Sergio Cervetti (piano) (5)
Karel Martinek (organ) (6)
(1) Recorded March 9, 2012 at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport MA
(2,3,4) Recorded November 1995 at Casa de America in Madrid, Spain
(5) Recorded April 13, 2013 at Morningstar Studios in East Norriton PA, USA
(6) Recorded July 2, 2011 at St. Maurice Church in Olomouc, Czech Republic.

Navona Records NV5900

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