|Continuing his exploration of composition and performance with "virtual" piano, composer Steve Layton (b. 1956) offers the third in his series of The Composer Plays CDs. For the first time, in addition to his own works Layton here performs compositions by two other wonderful composers: Jeff Harrington (b. 1955), and the late master Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001).
Harrington's BlueStrider is a pounding monster of a piece, with the drama and contrapuntal skill of Beethoven and Stravinsky married with Harrington's own New Orleans barrel-house-blues roots. Obsessive riffs weave their way through both iron-clad logic and exuberance.
Xenakis' Evryali is one of the pianistic monuments of the late 20th century, full of fearsome blocks of sound and densely intertwining branches of pulsing lines; so dense at times that virtually no single pianist can manage all of the notes in places. Layton's own "virtual" realization allows all of what Xenakis wrote to be heard just as he wrote it.
Layton's own music is sometimes extremely complex, other times deceptively simple, with the full gamut of moods, colors, tonality and chromaticism; a kind of delerious and unpredictable hyper-romanticism, yet with a kind of deep formal structure. He often attempts to integrate impossible kinds of pianism with the traditionally possible, in a seamless fashion that makes those kinds of distinctions melt away into the simple intensity of the musical experience.
1. And Then It Rained