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The Sudden Pianist - Michael Hersch: Suite from the Vanishing Pavilions / Michael Hersch, piano

Album Summary

>Hersch, Michael : The Vanishing Pavilions, for piano
>Unspecified : Bonus DVD Material
Performer Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Long-established as a leading voice among composers of his generation, Michael Hersch is also one of the great pianists of our time. This special CD/DVD package includes Hersch performing his "Suite from The Vanishing Pavilions" live in concert, his first appearance as a pianist in New York City in over a decade. Also included is a film of that performance and a documentary, The Sudden Pianist, focusing on Hersch's music for the piano and his performance of it.

American Record Guide, November/December 2013
This recording comes with a DVD video performance of the same concert performance that's on the CD - Hersh himself performing (well). There is also a halfhour promotional video, The Sudden Pianist, by Richard Anderson; apparently meant to be viewed as a documentary, this may be of interest to the composer's family and friends and possible concert promoters.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Merkin Concert Hall, New York City (10/18/2011).


Powerful and disturbing contemporary music, not for the vulnerable
This is a two disc set consisting of Michael Hersch performing his suite from “The Vanishing Pavillions” on CD, and then a DVD containing a short documentary film (~ 30 minutes) by Richard Anderson on Michael, as well him performing in concert (~ 60 minutes). The first line of the liner notes, in large letters, says “Beauty, Terror, and Stillness” – and that is absolutely correct, in that I felt all of those things when listening the work. “The Vanishing Pavillions” is essentially Hersh’s emotional responses to various fragments of the poetry of Christopher Middleton expressed in music – Mr. Hersch states that he could not express how he felt in words, and therefore had to do so in music. An example of such a fragment from Middleton:

So the flashing knife will split
Memory down the middle

The liner notes provide more such fragments that inspired various movements of the work, but it is obvious from the get-go that this is not “ordinary” music. Rather, it is what you might expect if someone were to take complicated feelings and conflicting emotional responses and force them through a music making filter, the result being at times choppy, gorgeous, frightening, discordant, physical and unsettling. It took this listener multiple times to become comfortable taking this in and accepting my own reactions to what I was hearing.

The documentary is interesting, as the workings of a composers mind is always something fascinating, given the nature of what they do. And Mr. Hersch is certainly gifted in this regard. When you watch his performance, it gives visual confirmation that physicality is definitely a component of what he does.

The liner notes are well written and informative, and definitely assist in the comprehension of this work, while the information on Mr. Hersch helps tie everything together. If contemporary music is something that you want no part of, then this may not be something that satisfies you. For those that are contemporary music lovers, or those that are fans of Mr. Hersch, this is certainly something that would be of value to have in your collection. For me, while this will not spend lots of time in my CD/DVD players, I am very grateful to have had the experience to absorb this collection – it game me lots to think about.

Submitted on 09/19/13 by KlingonOpera 
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Works Details

>Hersch, Michael : The Vanishing Pavilions, for piano
  • Performer: Michael Hersch (Piano)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 46 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary

>Unspecified : Bonus DVD Material