Monday, May 19, 2014

Mary Kathleen Ernst: Keeping Time

Mary Kathleen Ernst
Keeping Time
Fung, Higdon, Hoover, Shatin, de Kenessey, Deussen

Pianist Mary Kathleen Ernst turns in a strong program of solo piano works with equally strong performances. Yes, all the works were written by women, but that's about the only thing they have in common.

Vivan Fung's "Keeping Time" uses the piano as a percussion instrument. This work is all about rhythm, and Ernst delivers an energetic and (in my opinion) very cool performance.

By contrast, Jennifer Higdon's "Secret And Glass Gardens" sounds shimmering and ethereal, almost suspended in time and space. It's almost a companion piece to Debussy's "La cathédrale engloutie"

The "Dream Dances" of Katherine Hoover is a somewhat mysterious-sounding work, with slow-moving passages suddenly bursting forth with up-tempo angular melodies.

Judith Shatin used the I Ching to guide her compositional process, and the resulting music is fasciniating. This 26-minute work is comprised of very short sections, sounding almost like aphorisims. Shatin sometimes has the piano sound very mechanistic, almost like an electronic instrument.

I somethimes think Stefania de Kenessey writes the music others wish they had the courage to. "Spontaneous D-Combustion" has catchy, tonal melodies, supported by full, rich chords and a rhythmic pulse that has more than hint of pop sensibilities.

Nancy Bloomer Deussen's "A Recollection" is a wistful and quiet little work that calms down the listener and makes a peaceful close to the program.

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