Swiss pianist Ingrid Karlen makes her ECM debut with Variations, of which the program is as provocative as the title is vague. Beyond variations in the traditional sense, these are, rather, mise-en-abymes of abstractions. Or so they might at first aural glance seem, for within these sometimes troubling clusters of false starts breathes a unity at once organic and contrived. Anton Webern’s Variations for Piano, op. 27 (1935/36) is the primary example, for the only variations they seem to engender stem from that which cannot be notated. These pieces behave as might a solo violin sonata, jumping fluidly and bow-like through their ephemeral 12-tone links. They are the anti-motif, a stretch of childhood unable to be sifted.
That kind of music escapes from all traditional criteria pertaining to analysis and interpretation.
Ustvolskaya herself claimed it: "I urge everyone who loves my music not to analyze it theoretically"from the attached booklet
This is a very fine release, superbly played by musicians who really believe in the music and give it dedicated, committed readings. Excellent recording and informative notes by Frans Lemaire. This is by far the finest introduction to Ustvolkaya’s unique sound world.