The eponymous first track on Testaments sets the tone for the album. The frenetic energy of his earlier albums (notably Repent, More Live, and Consecration) is still here, but the songs slowly build to the crescendos. "Parables" includes some of his best piano playing. But Gayle saves the best for the CD's last cut, "Jericho." The three-minute piece is breathtaking, as Gayle plays saxophone and piano simultaneously in front of a live audience, while drummer Michael Wimberly's banging cymbals are outdone by Gayle's crashing piano chords. Unfortunately, the first and last tracks on Testaments bookend not-so-memorable in-between material.
If anybody is, then Zoltán Kocsis is truly a musical artist in the Renaissance sense: he explores ever greater areas of his profession, and takes possession of new realms. Initially, we looked on with incomprehension, asking why as a pianist of genius, he did not devote himself exclusively to his instrument. Why was he dissipating his creative energies is so many fields: teaching, conducting, writing essays, creating concert programs, forming societies and building an orchestra – and of course, there was his composition as well. But these days, we really have to acknowledge that with Kocsis, this is not some sporting achievement, but utilising the Wagnerian term – a kind of “Gesamtkunstwerk” activity.
"Gemeaux" (1971-1986) is one of Takemitsu's grandest works in terms of musical arc, scoring and length of gestation. It is written for two orchestras with two conductors, and with solo trombone at one orchestra and solo oboe at the other. As half of it was written during Takemitsu's "modernist apogee" of the turn of the '70s, we find a host of extended techniques, and at one point the soloists even speak through the mouthpieces of their instruments. As the other half of the work belongs to Takemitsu's late period, we find a successful of elegant self-contained gestures, his musical "gardens". The synthesis of two creative periods, however, makes for a piece singular in its impact in Takemitsu's oeuvre.
Ransom Wilson has long been recognized internationally as one of the greatest flutists of his generation. After graduation from the Juilliard School in 1973, he spent a year in Paris as a private student of Jean-Pierre Rampal. In 1976 he gave his official debut concert in New York City, with Rampal as his guest artist. An exclusive recording contract with Angel/EMI followed soon thereafter, along with extensive performances all over the world.
Known for drawing unusual sonorities from conventional instruments, Xenakis strangely left the piano's potential for novel sounds unexplored. In these works, Xenakis stays on the keyboard without so much as a plucked string or any use of gadgetry to alter the instrument's sound. Although that might make these pieces appear less radical, even "safe," Xenakis exploits every other option available.