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Larry Polansky (b.1954): Three Pieces for Two Pianos; Old Paint; Dismission I & II / Joseph Kubera, Marilyn Nonken & Amy Beal, pianos

Album Summary

>Polansky, Larry : Pieces (3) for 2 pianos
>Polansky, Larry : Old Paint, for piano
>Polansky, Larry : k-toods, for 2 pianos
>Polansky, Larry : Dismission (pianotood), for piano
>Polansky, Larry : Dismission (pianotood 2), for piano
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This album exemplifies the depth to which Larry Polansky (b. 1954) explores and connects different musical ideas: In Three Pieces for Two Pianos and Old Paint, mathematical models and algorithmic processes are used to set folk songs; in k-toods, simple text scores outline complex musical processes that Polansky has theorized extensively; and the Dismissions are culminations of lifelong musicological investigations. His unique compositional style is unified through diversity and a constant reexamining, questioning, reformulating, and mixing of ideas. In Three Pieces for Two Pianos (2006 - 07) Polansky integrates several compositional processes, many of which are individually employed in the subsequent pieces. In Old Paint (2010), a setting of the traditional American cowboy song "I Ride an Old Paint," Polansky augments Ruth Crawford Seeger's piano arrangement from 19 American Folk Songs for Piano. The piece starts and ends with a haunting melody that floats above, below, and around the tune sung by the pianist. The five k-toods (2002) musically reflect personal experiences and reflections Polansky has had as a father. While loosely programmatic in that sense, they are not at all separate from deep musical investigations found throughout his work; most notably, mathematical functions of time that control the evolution of one musical shape into another, which he calls "morphological mutations." Through the Shakers, he first became interested in the concept of "dismission" in American sacred music. Dismission (pianotood) (2006) expands the original hymn both harmonically, with very wide, open voicings of the chords through much of the piece, and temporally, by increasing then decreasing the lengths of the measures with the time-stretching algorithm also used in the Three Pieces for Two Pianos. Dismission (pianotood 2) (2006) does not implement the time-stretching algorithm and the voicings are generally a bit more compact. Instead Polansky ornaments some of the chords with delicate embellishments and figurations.

American Record Guide, May/June 2016
Four works for two pianos by Larry Polansky (b. 1954), who blends modernist scientism with West Coast avant-gardist populism.

In Three Pieces for Two Pianos (2006-7) the first piece alternates and overlays Satieesque musing with outbursts and disturbed dreams, with an occasional drift into the cosmos; II (in two parts) is meditative; III opens with a quiet chorale and continues with improvisatory meandering. The backgrounds often consist of simple triads. Old Paint (2010) returns to the cosmos with the tune 'I Ride an Old Paint' "sung" very quietly over quiet piano improvisation by the solo pianist. K-toods (2002) are five pieces for two pianos taking off from the punning title on the word "etudes". The subtext is the composer's role as a father and his later rules for his kid, a metaphor for Polansky's compositional "rules". These are playful and almost catchy, with quasi-minimalist repetition and angular juxtapositions. Dismission (2006) is based on a Shaker hymn stretched and dislocated into quiet space.

Here are two versions, and both are here. These are interesting, challenging, and even enjoyable pieces, extremely well played by these excellent pianists. Detailed notes as expected.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: The American Academy of Arts and Letters, NYC (06/02/2015).



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Works Details

>Polansky, Larry : Pieces (3) for 2 pianos
  • Performers: Joseph Kubera (Piano); Marilyn Nonken (Piano)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 6 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2006-2007

>Polansky, Larry : Old Paint, for piano
  • Performer: Rory Cowal (Piano)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 34 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2010

>Polansky, Larry : k-toods, for 2 pianos
  • Performers: Tobin Chodos (Piano); Ittai Rosenbaum (Piano)
  • Running Time: 14 min. sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2002

>Polansky, Larry : Dismission (pianotood), for piano
  • Performer: Amy Beal (Piano)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 22 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2006

>Polansky, Larry : Dismission (pianotood 2), for piano
  • Performer: Amy Beal (Piano)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2006