Toccata II; Toccata IV
Piano Sonata No.3
[All UK premieres]
Sara Laimon (piano)
Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse
Reviewed: 16 June, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The tradition of post-war American piano music that has its basis neither in Serialism nor Minimalism is a considerable one, and in Canadian pianist Sara Laimon has one of its most committed and persuasive exponents.
This Wigmore Hall recital provided an admirable showcase – beginning with music by the New York-based Harold Meltzer (born 1966): the poised manner and lucid figuration of two (from a set of five) Toccatas (2005) sounding as idiomatic on piano as they must do on harpsichord. Qualities equally evident in the Piano Sonata (2008) – though this compact one-movement piece surely required greater contrast between its salient motifs to have communicated its argument more fully.
More successful in this respect was Fantasy Suite by Laura Kaminsky (born 1956) – four pieces written over the last 15 years that Laimon has assembled into a effective sequence. Thus the understated discontinuity of ‘Triftmusik’ found a ready contrast in the jazzy syncopation of ‘Boulevard’, before the ethereal abstraction of ‘Musica Stellato’ was similarly complemented by the unbridled energy of ‘Toccata Piccola’. Further suites drawn from Kaminsky’s piano output ought to be worth hearing.
After the interval, a performance of the Third Sonata by Ezra Laderman (born 1924). Subtitled ‘The Circus of My Mind’, this is built on an impressive scale for a work deploying its motivic material with exceptional concentration. Formally the work is more problematic: a tightly focussed ‘Fantasia’ and ‘Variations’ framing a central span entitled ‘Ten Piano Pieces’ – pithy and characterful miniatures to be sure, yet which proceed far too discontinuously for an overarching momentum to be established. Occupying, moreover, over half of the time-span places too great a strain on overall integration for the work to succeed as a balanced, proportioned whole. A pity, as those outer movements brought the most engaging music of the evening, such as make Laderman a composer worth knowing better.
Which brings one to the fundamental point about recitals such as this one: by all means programme accordingly, but do not expect even a renowned venue such as this to bring in an audience when the composers are (at least outside of North America) so obscure. Not that this should detract either from the audible conviction of Laimon’s performances or the sheer excellence of her playing: hopefully she will return to Wigmore Hall, for a stylistically more wide-ranging recital, before too long.