September 4, 2014
I've gotten a nice boost upwards into the compositional world of Carter Pann (b. 1972) with his latest CD The Piano's 12 Sides (Naxos 8.559751). Joel Hastings gives us very enveloping, vibrant renditions of the 2011/12 title opus plus a number of shorter works, all but one enjoying their world premiere recording here.
Pann has an ultra-musical pianistic outlook and the works, especially the hour-long title suite, have a kind of plain air post-impressionism about them, modern yet with a lyrical eloquence that suggests Debussy and Ravel but in extension, as Carter Pann music, with some excitingly contemporary elements, all sounding especially well as piano music.
"The Piano's 12 Sides" gives us a series of 12 vignettes, each filled with light and color. "Soiree Macabre" gives us an old-time, jazz-stride-related refrain surrounded by ruminations and eruptions. "An Irish Tune", the final number in the suite, is in fact Carter's lovely take on "Danny Boy". All of it gives your ears and your musical psyche a lift with beautifully modern harmonies, cascades and adventures into imaginative piano realms.
"The Bills" (1997) and "The Cheese Grater" (1996) have modern ragtime-early jazz feels influenced by his studies with WIlliam Albright but given a Carter Pann spin. They are very fetching and filled with elan.
The final "Your Touch" (1997) is in fact the cadenza from his "Piano Concerto No. 1" and leaves us in a thoughtful mood.
Maestro Pann has a wonderfully lyrical and sometimes almost puckish outlook that bears our attention very well and strikes one as thoroughly contemporary, even though he has one eye on the past and what he sees he transforms and reshapes to his own vision. Joel Hastings plays these works as if he were born to them. He has just the right combination of touch and cool, yet impassioned power to make the performances truly characteristic.
I must say I find this one much to my liking. Any lover of the thoughtfully poetic qualities of the pianoforte as developed by the more dazzled and dappled composers and performers over the last century will find this something familiar yet fresh, a delight.