This isn’t the best recording of The Piano Concerto. Despite the fact that, for me at least, John Lenehan has always been the definitive Nyman pianist other than the composer himself, Stott’s interpretation has more vigour and Lawson’s more musicality. Lenehan’s performance is also muddied by the recording’s vague acoustic, a particularly telling problem for die-hard Nymaniacs who have grown up with the crisp, punchy, quasi-rock production style entirely appropriate to Nyman’s music and a trademark since his work with David Cunningham in the early 1980s.
Michael Nyman came of age as a classical composer in the radical London of the late '60s. His work embraces multiple vernaculars (jazz, avant garde, conceptual art) and helped cement the foundation of what came to be known as minimalism. Decades into his career, Nyman's score to Jane Campion's film The Piano made him a star. The movie's themes of colonialism and silence (its protagonist, portrayed by Holly Hunter, cannot speak) were perfectly aligned with his longtime interests in world and ambient music. Horn players assist members of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in fleshing out Nyman's stately, hymn-like motifs. On the more heavily orchestrated cues, sentimentality wins out over minimalist restraint; the best tracks feature Nyman on solo piano, playing the rudimentary, faux period repertoire of Hunter's character.
For this, his seventh soundtrack for director Peter Greenaway, Nyman deftly orchestrates a mix of strings, horns, and voices to produce another of his fetching and romantic minimalist backdrops. The opening "Memorial" is the highlight of the lot and drives along with stuttering saxophones, an insistent string arrangement, elegiac brass solos, and the soaring vocals of soprano Sarah Leonard (Leonard would be featured on a large part of the Prospero's Books soundtrack). The piece was originally inspired by a 1985 Belgian soccer match tragedy, in which 39 Italian fans were killed. Nyman utilized a death march in his earlier Greenaway collaboration, Drowning by Numbers, and revives the scheme to great effect here for what would become the main theme of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. Nyman contrasts the piece's climatic quality with two relatively sedate yet brooding numbers.
Michael Nyman (born 1944) is one of the most famous and successful film music composers of our time. His music, although inextricably connected with the visual action of a film, has the quality to stand on its own, to evoke and express the visual emotions in sounds only. Nyman’s most famous film score is of the film “The Piano” , becoming an instant hit. Its openness and its deceptively simple musical lines appealed to a mass audience. The music featured on this recording is either originally written for piano or arranged by the composer himself. Minimal Music champion Jeroen van Veen has been fascinated by Nyman’s music his whole life, and the recording of it was a logical step. He is the ideal interpreter of this seductive, mind opening music.
The 'Eight Songs' are essentially a song cycle presented in two groups of 4: the first group preceded by 4 instrumental movements and the second by 6. The texts were written by World War 1 poets all of whom, apart from the English painter-poet David Bomberg, lost their lives during the war. The songs take their starting point from the title of a series of poems by the French poet Gaston de Ruyter (who was shot down in his planes as late as 7 October 1918): ‘Chansons vieilles sur d’autres airs’ (‘Old songs to other tunes’). The ‘chansons vieilles’ are the poems by English, French, German and Hungarian poets (all sung in their original languages apart from ‘Csak Egy Eiszkara…..’ and the ‘autres airs’ are by English, French, German, Austro-Hungarian, Polish and Italian composers of the 17th and 19th centuries.