This recital was presented by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in conjunction with the recent opening of an exhibit by a Scottish artist titled, "Hamish Fulton: Selected Walks 1969-1989." It consisted of an amazing six world premieres and two American premieres, with nature as the loosely connecting thread.
Pianist James Clapperton established his credentials as a prodigious technician with James Dillon's opening 1978 "Dillug-Kefitsah," title not explained. He played the brief work's intermixture of plink-plunk atonal pointillism and furious bursts of jabbing energy with impressive control over its dynamics and the articulation and accuracy of its almost impossibly fast, surging lines.
In James MacMillan's 1985 Sonata, after a wintry poem by Edwin Muir, a long central movement of fleet-footed atonal passage-work and more measured statements was bracketed by short movements of spatial swirlings and icy chordal progressions.
These two works were American premieres. The rest were being heard by the world for the first time.
Clapperton provided two of his own works, both providing excellent textural contrast for the program with their gentle dynamics and predominant use of upper and middle registers. His arrangements of the folk songs "Tam Glen," "The White Cockade" and "Jamie Come Try Me" were pensive and gentle, rarely exceeding a mezzo piano dynamic, leanly harmonized. They were played with great tenderness and affection.
In his antique-flavored "The taill of Orpheus and Erudices his quene," Clapperton and the percussionists again dwelt mostly in quiet dynamics, so that the occasional mezzo forte sounded loud by comparison. One of the six movements was for bells and chimes alone, a steady drum beat undergirded a "dancing" movement, but the prevailing flavor and memory was of a sequence of very attractive, sonorous, carefully placed and spaced piano and metallophone tones in a timeless, static context.
The other work involving percussion was Andrew Toovey's 1989 "Whirling," an accurately descriptive title for a piece whose "whirling" was done by the piano against an unvarying rhythmic fresh ground
pattern by conga, crotales and drum, suddenly lurching into a convulsive coda. The composer was on hand to share the applause with the performers.
Lawrence Crane's "Three Pieces for James Clapperton" were reminiscent of Satie's "Gymnopedies" slow-treading repeated figures, steady gentle pulse and simple but uplifting harmonic alternations.
Michael Finnissy's "Haen" was calm and meditative, built on wispy, evocative trills. It had a ruminating, questioning, philosophizing quality, an obviously contemporary piece with an appealing antiquated aura surrounding it.
Concluding the program was Buffalo composer Yvar Mikhashoff's "Mikhachelle," a miniature based on fanfarish swirls of great energy with the Beatles tune "Michelle" interwoven, more implied than fully stated as played by Clapperton on this occasion.
The Flowers of the Forest, a portrait of Scottish music.
Featuring pianist James Clapperton, with percussionists Mark Crimi, Robert Schulz and Jan Williams.
Sunday afternoon in Albright-Knox Art Gallery.