MICHAEL SNOW & THOLLEM MCDONAS – Two Piano Concert At The Philadelphia Museum Of Art

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Michael Snow, Thollem Mcdonas: piano

A riveting recording of an one-off performance occurred during a retrospective exhibition about Michael Snow’s creative output of a lifetime. There are several points of intrigue in the set, the foremost being the hall’s reflectivity adding a sort of “ancient era” halo to the joint sonorousness of the hammered strings. Then again, it is quite surprising to find out how the two pianists complement each other almost flawlessly, as if their styles were traceable from a same origin. This “four-hand creature” feel qualifies the near-totality of what is heard, substantiating the artists’ necessity of telling as much as possible within a rather circumscribed temporal frame (the CD lasts in fact 40 minutes) but never, ever playing anything superfluous to the music’s overall efficiency.

In essence we have three sections, mostly outlined by interweaving contrapuntal designs and adjoining pulses which, at times, reminded us of Conlon Nancarrow’s most comprehensible prospects (so to speak). The whole seems to incorporate bits and pieces of a large part of the instrument’s history: from late romanticism to pre-serialism – of a more “tonal” lineage than usual – across assorted forms of reiterative construction, ending into a “bitter” variety of bionic honky tonk (hypothetically serviceable as soundtrack for aged black and white footage, if all of this makes some sense to my dear reader).

Besides the sheer chordal beauty, what really pushes the ship forward is the force of the rhythmic shifts, occasionally producing quasi-telluric motility permeated by thunderous dissonance. Whenever this happens, though, the individual sensibility of which both Snow and Mcdonas are profusely equipped signals the point in which the intensity level must be lessened of the exact quantity required to bring the audience back to a comfortable enough environment. Ultimately, take note: every new spin introduces additional layers of fascination. At any rate, don’t lose your head in excessive scrutiny; just inhale the healthy fumes

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