Discs of the Month

The Art of Touching the Keyboard

Discs of the Month

April 1, 2004 – May 7, 2004

Reviewed by David Olds

March brought us major new releases by two of the country’s top pianists in the contemporary field, Louis-Philippe Pelletier whose international career began four decades ago, and rising star Eve Egoyan. Egoyan’s third disc, The Art of Touching the Keyboard, juxtaposes works by Canadians José Evangelista, Stephen Parkinson and Allison Cameron with those of Karen Tanaka (Japan), Judith Weir (Great Britain) and Per Nørgard (Denmark). Weir’s piece gives the name, borrowed from François Couperin, to the CD. It is intended to demonstrate “the many ways in which piano keys can be touched, from the gentlest of strokes to the most vicious blows”, and this Egoyan does admirably. But it is in Evangelista’s piece that I am most impressed with her “touch”. In keeping with his signature style, the composer has made monodic arrangements of traditional Spanish melodies without harmony or counterpoint. Simply through changes of register and ornamentation, and drawing on the technical prowess of the pianist, he manages to captivate the listener and hold our attention throughout the 21 variations. Tanaka’s Crystalline requires “A glassy, solid sound… like a cold, crystal sound sculpture”. Egoyan’s performance suggests icicles and takes our breath away.

I feel that Parkinson and Cameron do themselves a disservice with their cursory program notes. Parkinson’s Trail, with descriptive movement titles such as “Legends of the West”, “A Black Hat” and “Pinkerton Man”, seems to have a narrative intention but there is no context given in the composer’s enigmatic note. The only information we are given for Cameron’s Corals of Valais, a pointillistic piece with a nominally “prepared” piano, is that “The title is not a reference to any particular place – only what might be”. Egoyan is not daunted by this lack of instruction though and realizes each work with her trademark sensitivity.