Eve Egoyan (pn)
CENTREDISCS 19113 (75:39)
I refer readers to my review, last summer, of another disc of Ann Southam’s piano music played by Eve Egoyan (Centrediscs CMCCD 17211). That disc contained two other
pieces, plus two earlier works,
Qualities of Consonance
. As I noted at that time, current interest in Ann Southam’s music—outside of her native Canada, anyway—probably has much to do with a glowing review by Alex Ross in
The New Yorker
, and that review is excerpted (“I couldn’t stop listening”) on the inlay card to the present release. Southam’s death (from cancer) in 2010 also spurred new interest in her
The five works presented here (indeed, the numeral “5” is this disc’s overall title) were posthumously discovered, and all are receiving their first recordings with this release. The two
in G come from the last year or two of the composer’s life; the other two
s are stylistically similar to
in G and probably come from the same period. Listeners who already have discovered the two
on Egoyan’s earlier CD will not be surprised by these two new members of the family. As I noted in the last review, this is process music, although the processes invoked are not as strict and mechanical as they are in some minimalist music. Specifically:
] are built upon a 12-tone row, which “gradually unfolds between two stable tonal lines (a drone in the bass; chords in the upper voice).” I guess a less specific way to describe this music is that it is slow-moving, quiet, and pointillistic, somewhat in the matter of late Morton Feldman. It has a subtle rocking motion, something between a lullaby and a gondola song, but it would be a strange mother who sang this music to her baby, and an unlikely gondolier who poled along the Venetian canals to either of these
. The music is quietly inquiet, if you will.
This time around, my impression of the music’s slow pace was that it was more loping than rocking, but perhaps that is because I have turned 50 in the interim! This is easy music to hear but not easy music to appreciate, because it all tends to sound very same-y, from moment to moment, and from piece to piece. (That applies to all five works on this new disc.) Only by listening patiently will one begin to appreciate the differences and the processes. The more you put in, the more you take away. That begs the question, though: Is it worth the time and effort? I don’t find these works to be as profound as late Feldman, although I’m at a loss to explain exactly why I feel that way. Heard casually, the music is meditative, and the many (in fact, practically unrelenting) chiming chords in the piano’s midrange are mellow and pretty. Some will find it pleasantly monotonous—others will omit the “pleasantly” and perhaps go so far as to describe the music’s endless variability within its tightly circumscribed range as annoying. One has to give Southam credit, though, for having been methodical and thorough, and for having been driven by ideas as well as by emotions.
In my previous review, I praised Egoyan’s pianism as follows: “One has to approach this music in much the same way as one would approach Ravel’s “Le gibet” (from
Gaspard de la nuit
)—that is, with real sensitivity for quiet, and for infinite gradations of tone at the gray end of the spectrum. Egoyan is a true believer, and if you listen responsibly, she will try and convert you as well.” Nothing has changed. In terms of playing the right notes at the right time, this is not difficult music, but it demands vision and imagination in order for it to come off, and Egoyan has all that and more.
I’d recommend other Southam discs (
Simple Lines of Enquiry
) before this one, but if you know what you’re getting into, and like it, there’s no reason to delay.