A Pair of Piano Music CD’s reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Brian Agro,”Procession of Ornaments” Tomas Bachli, piano. 14 tracks.Percasso 26. Link to Percasso.

It takes a lot of listening to explore the depths of this third solo piano album by Canadian expat in Berlin, Brian Agro. The pieces are imaginative miniatures, mostly 1-3 minutes with a couple around 5 minutes, played in an attentive, crystalline fashion by Tomas Bachli. Each has its own mood built up out of melodic, simple yet complex elements. If there is an overall energy, I’d have to use words like reflective and enigmatic but there are often cheerful highlights touched by mischief. There are ocassional moments, as in ‘Prétudes’ Part I and II, when a feeling of heaviness bordering on monotony arises.

The work is published on the Percaso label and is classed as a kind of avant/jazz, but the music brings to my mind the elegant keyboard ruminations of Ravel and the illusionary play of Debussy. Agro has a good ear, good taste, and a sensitivity to fine gradations of feeling, all reflected in his idiosyncratic chord structures. His miniatures repay repeated careful listening but also are also enjoyable to have around while you work or relax.

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Simon Trpceski,“Debussy: Images”.EMI Classics 5099950027224.

Simon Trpceski’s 4th album for EMI is marked by his understated but flawless technique and a kind of objective sense of the music that releases the freshness nascent in the (amply recorded) solo piano music of Debussy. I have enjoyed repeated listenings of “Images: Bks I and II” because Trpceski’s style brings out both mysteriousness and passion that are substantial in the floating vagueness of Debussy’s middle period music, following the transfer of his affections from his first wife to Emma Bardac.

Nowhere is the freshness of Trpceski’s approach more evident than in the over-exposed “Claire de lune” which one hears as if for the first time, due to the thoughtful musicality of his phrasing. One has the sense of a lovely sea-breeze blowing through French doors that open onto a patio overlooking a moonlit sea murmuring of endless love.

“L’isle joyeuse”, from the same happy period, is crisp and extraverted in its unfolding. Here the passion is clothed in high spirits and the virtuosity required is characteristically under the control of Trpceski’s good taste. There are examples of Debussy’s earliest ornamental salon music–the “Arabesques” of 1891, and the dramatic, playful 6 sections of the suite “Children’s Corner” dedicated to his daughter Chou-chou and full of impish good humour (“Golliwog’s Cakewalk”) but fine enough to serve as a piano method work (“Serenade for the Doll”).
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Trpceski has recorded Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and several Russians. I had the good fortune to hear him in a Toronto performance that included some later Brahms that would be worth having on disc.

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