Saturday, 19 January 2019
Classical CDs Weekly: Mia Brentano, Wim Henderickx, Saint-Saëns
Flemish and German contemporary music, plus three French piano concertos
by Graham Rickson
Hiddensee is a car-free German island in the Baltic Sea. It’s mentioned as one possible inspiration for the pieces on this beguiling disc; this music exists in its own prelapsarian world. There are allusions to Gershwin and, allegedly, Barbra Streisand, though the popular influences are treated in sophisticated ways. These pieces also sound incredibly difficult to play, Brentano suggesting that these songs without words need classically trained pianists to do them justice. “Early Birds” is a case in point, an ineffably Gallic-sounding etude with some fiendish treble writing. Wonderfully performed by Benyamin Nuss and Max Nyberg, this disc cries out to be consumed via decent speakers or headphones, allowing one to reg- ister how Brentano divvies up the various musical elements between left and right pianos.
The highlights are many. “Slapstick” bounds along nicely, and the tiny nocturne “Wherever You Are” feels much bigger than its 66 second duration might suggest. Cellist Asja Valcic adds a touch of garnish to several tracks, the squelchy harmonies in “Misty Morning” hitting the spot. Why haven’t we heard of Mia Brentano before? Hmm. Klaus Martin Kopitz’s tricksy, evasive sleeve note raises more questions than it answers, and a spot of googling reveals that the Brentano is actually Kopitz, a German composer and mu- sicologist. We’ve been had, in other words. Does this matter? Not at all, and anyone who’s spent the last few weeks unsuccessfully dodging news bulletins and headlines could do worse than to tune out and wallow in a warm bath of Kopitz/Brentano. Four bonus improv- isations by Nuss and Nyberg are thrown in.