Wizards & Wildmen: Piano Music of Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison. Anthony de Mare, piano (CRI) Gifted pianist Anthony de Mare's excellent compilation provides

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Disc Man

Wizards & Wildmen: Piano Music of Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison. Anthony de Mare, piano (CRI) Gifted pianist Anthony de Mare's excellent compilation provides the opportunity to hear rewarding, thoroughly "modern music"—the kind some love and others run from—penned by three great mavericks of the 20th century. Charles Ives (1874-1954), whose conservative politics did not prevent him from writing cutting-edge music, is showcased via early compositions and late, recently transcribed improvisations. All are beautiful, some expectedly way out there. Henry Cowell (1897-1965), whose work inspired many subsequent composers and conductors, wrote astounding, provocative piano music that sometimes requires the musician to play keys with forearms and fists, or to strum, scrape, and pluck piano strings. (To mix similes, Cowell, as Cage before him, did more to alter the sound of the piano than any hairdresser has ever accomplished with coiffure.) Cowell also introduced Ives' music to his student, the still-productive composer Lou Harrison (b. 1917)—shockingly unlisted in The Penguin Guide to Compact Classics. (Henry Cowell is represented by only one meager entry!) Harrison's conducting premiere of Ives' Third Symphony led to Ives' receipt of the 1947 Pulitzer Prize. Harrison's small piano output is little known; five of the seven fascinating early compositions on this disc, reflecting harmonies variously modern, traditional, and Eastern, receive premieres. While pianist de Mare's bare-chested cover is designed to attract a nomination for a Classical GLAMA (Gay Lesbian American Music Award)—does he play Cowell with his pecs, I wonder?—his technique and sensibility, as well as his good looks, deserve universal praise.

JASON SERINUS

e-mail: discman@seattleweekly.com

 
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