Discovering Adam Sherkin by Stanley Fefferman

Sunday, September 26, 2010, Gallery 345, Toronto

Adam Sherkin is an interesting man: he has his own way of doing things. Last night, at 7 pm, rather than at 8, he performed an eclectic concert on the Steinway at the elegant Gallery 345, for free, before a full house, and created a lot of excitement with a program that fused Bach with Birtwhistle, Beethoven with John Adams, and Rachmaninoff with Sherkin’s own compositions.

Sherkin has an interesting view of the classical lineage. He chooses works that are not so well known, partly because he hears in them prophecies of a musical future that has not yet fully arrived even in our time. Indeed, his playing of Bach’s Duets BWV 802 and 803, and Beethoven’s Sonata in F major Op.54 brought out recognizable post-modern elements. Passages in Bach’s and Beethoven’s pieces heard beside works by the British composer Harrison Birtwistle and indeed beside Sherkin’s own short pieces seem to be constructed out of juxtaposed blocks of sound that one associates with the works of Edgar Varése. Sherkin’s style of playing,fully capable of delicately nuancing legato passages, is distinctive for his ability to cleanly cut sonorities into crystalline blocks, and reinforces this forward-looking impression of the classics.

As impressive as his playing and composing is Sherkin’s bold style of presenting himself. The evening’s program was printed in colour on glossy cardstock and included a list of the performances he’s planned for this season. In addition to offering more of his considerable list of compositions, Sherkin will be premiering one of his works in progress, as well as The Piano Music of John Adams, Birtwistle’s Clocks, and Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations. I recommend you visit his website where you will find  bio info and the details of Sherkin’s 2010-2011 performance schedule.

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