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Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s popular classic Pictures at an Exhibition, a 1974 composition based on an exhibition by his artist friend Victor Hartman, has become a classical "hit" for virtuoso pianists. It describes 10 separate paintings with a recurring, varied promenade theme. Orchestrations have increased its popularity, the most famous by Ravel, but the pianist revels in his lonely task here. Bravo!
In a clever idea, the second half of this CD is given over to New Zealand composer Eve de Castro-Robinson’s fascinating new composition A Zigzagged Gaze, that is also a 10-piece suite of miniatures inspired by contemporary art works among the Wallace Arts Trust Collection in Auckland — works that spoke to her with "singular, wildly differing voices". (The booklet offers photos and notes on each work, plus the composer’s interesting comments.)
Henry Wong Doe brilliantly plays the very popular Mussorgsky classic with rich and thundering chords, spectacular agility and great tempo control, superb shifts from whispering tones to crashing double fortissimos. Eve de Castro-Robinson’s zigzag tracks are also exciting to the ears in their dramatic introduction, and played with the same sort of musical passion.
My favourite tracks were the comical Tingler, colourful The troubadour and playful Trick-or-Treater. Passion Flower also impressed, x (life, still, Baby) was a quiet, dark meditation and Blue Lady had gentle tones seeming to show respect. Big Pink Shimmering One’s rippling colours suggested fresh, deep layers of paint. There’s an interesting commentary on the art in the accompanying booklet, by de Castro Robinson, each work paired with a haiku.
Verdict: Excellent depictions of art.
- Geoff Adams