GENE GUTCHË – Piano Music Of Gene Gutchë


This record came escorted by one of the most exhaustive press releases ever. It details everything that concerns the composer (a fascinating figure: a German of Polish descent, born in 1907, who migrated to the US and built a somewhat hidden career there until his death in 2000) and the performer, Minneapolis-based pianist Matthew McCright. The latter is both fond of disparate genres (including contemporary pop) and a former collaborator of top-rank members of the avant circles such as Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros and Alvin Lucier.

In an ideal world, this item should be reviewed by a credentialed specialist: despite a liking of Radiohead and B-52’s, the liners are signed by “Dr. Matthew McCright”. Still, what transpires from the five scores proposed here is a music that – although reasonably rooted in atonality – sounds rather two-dimensional, deprived as it is of authentically startling disruptions or touches of bona fide ingeniousness. Picture a half-breed made of attenuated versions of Bach and Hanns Eisler, just to get hold of a vague mental object. This is not to say that listening to it is unpleasant; on the contrary, once you realize that the level of dissonant non-compliance is relatively low (after all Mr. Gutchë had to earn a living, the anti-academic stance notwithstanding; apparently, he never had other jobs except composing) and that there are indeed welcome rhythmic twists and atypical chordal excursions to be found at various moments in the disc – especially in the 2-part “Sonata, Op.32” – a measure of solace can be found while letting these ancient scents spread across the room.

And yet, the whole never ventures beyond the borders of a quite typical “dust-from-the-past-with-minor-incidents” experience, certainly well played but in the end scarcely important in terms of mere artistic and emotional consequence. All in all, this is a legitimate display of a minor name’s work, and – historically speaking – that must count for something. However it’s highly improbable that I’ll be hyping Gene Gutchë among the unjustly overlooked must-hears among my close acquaintances.

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