Michael Nyman, The Piano Sings, Vol. 2)

Daniel Felsenfeld

By Daniel Felsenfeld

on 01.16.14 in Reviews

It’s possible you only know Michael Nyman as a film composer, either for his scores for most of the early Peter Greenaway movies (say The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover) or his score to Jane Campion’s The Piano. But there is more to him than that — he is one of the first composers to bring the pulse-pound of rock ‘n’ roll to a more formalized setting, writing what is, in essence, classically crafted pop material with a slight edge and a wider variety. He’s not only minimalist, he was the first person to apply that art-world term to music. And what’s more, with most of his work available on his own label, he’s an early adapter of DIY in the classical world.

Nyman looking at Nyman, quietly and succinctly

If you have never listened to Nyman, this is an especially intimate place to start — it’s just Nyman, a grand piano and you. And unlike Volume One, which was devoted solely to music from The Piano played on the piano, this is a career-spanner. From early works like “The Actors” to up-to-the-minute “Man with a Movie Camera” (aside from being a composer, pianist, bandleader, author and librettist, Nyman is also an accomplished filmmaker and photographer), this is Nyman looking at Nyman, quietly and succinctly.

If you happen to be an admirer already, there’s plenty here for you: His solo version of the devilish “Eye for Optical Theory” from The Draughtman’s Contract is a welcome spin on an old friend, as is the wistful “Goodbye Moortie” from The Diary of Anne Frank or the antic “House on Fire” from the little-known theatre piece The Actors. And movie fans will not be disappointed: There are a few wrenching tracks from The Piano and the lesser-known Huxley-off Gattaca. As usual, his music is fearlessly and elegantly beautiful, and the benefit of such a quiet, solo cri de couer is that, listening carefully, you get to breathe with him.