“Here are four cycles of short, intelligently crafted and musically reﬁned pieces. The six miniatures that make up Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Jubilees all exploit catchy short phrases that expand, contract and develop into unpredictable yet logical outcomes. For example, No.4’s simple, stark opening thirds unfold into darting lines, then return with faster, more line-orientated material. Composer/pianist George King’s interpretations are a shade faster and geared more towards the ‘big picture’ than the more deliberate, close-up detail game plan of Ralph van Raat’s recording, and every hit as convincing.
As you’d guess from the title, Philip Cashian’s Six Pieces after Paintings by Ben Hartley are more descriptive than abstract. Several stand out: ‘Beware of the Twins‘ is a terse jig consisting of relentless double notes alternating between hands, and the opening ‘Cock-a-Dandy’ evokes the image of Messiaen’s free-range aviary contained in a cuckoo clock.
I fail to hear the ‘epic’ qualities King ascribes to George Benjamin’s Shadowlines, which are intimately scaled and carefully proportioned in terms of creating harmonic tension and resolution, wasting not one note. By contrast, King’s own six piano études are less obviously original in that they readily reveal their influences — No.6’s rapid single lines and decorative flourishes suggest a Ligeti and Debussy étude mash-up – but they are well made and hold the attention. No.1’s intense contrary-motion action concludes with a short and surprising single note. No.4 consists of haunting repeated phrases at differing soft dynamic levels joined by sparely deployed single notes and billowy chords that are similar to those of No.3, which anchor that etude‘s whimsical flourishes and repeated-note gestures.
No cause for complaint concerning the slightly dry engineering, although a warmer, more lustrous ambience might better offset the music’s leaner and more spacious qualities. Let’s hope King follows up this worthwhile release with a disc that shows off his improvising acumen.”