cmcVisions:Complete Books of Rhapsodies and Fantasias. Constantine Caravassilis/Christina Petrowska-Quilico. Centrediscs.

This solo piano music is a meditative, mimimilist, melange of Middle- Eastern/Mediterranean folk-song and dance motifs, composed partly in regional modes with flavours of traditional Greek and Turkish instruments coming out of the piano.

To my ear, it sounds like spiritual pianism, of the sort that came out of the collaboration of the Armenian mystic G.I. Gurdieff and his student, the pianist Thomas de Hartmann in the late 1920’s, and still being marketed as The Music of Gurdjieff / De Hartmann.

Visions is also being presented as a collaboration: this one between emergent composer Constantine Caravassilis and his piano-teacher, Christina Petrowska-Quilico, a leading exponent of of new music in Canada.

The double-disc offers nearly two hours of solo piano music: a set of five well-structured Rhapsodies, and a more fluid set of five Fantasias, both sets addressed to the listener’s imagination.

Given the close connection between composer and pianist, it works to discuss the music from a single point of view. For example, the music often calls for crystalline right-hand runs and shifting tempi that are technically challenging, and admirably executed. At the same time, the feeling for the mysticism and spirituality behind the notes comes through, palpably.

Visitations is affecting. The music is vivid, and the pianist’s technique so flexible, that she is able to lose herself in an almost endless variety of moods, feelings, shifting dramas, some peaceful, but given the frequency of alternations, the peace at the core of the music is not very stable.

The most compelling composition is Shadow Variations, an homage to Armenian-American composer Alan Hovaness. One senses behind the orientalisms great depths of cultural richness, an impression one enjoys by wondering about it.  The orientalisms bleed into more Baroque modes, and from there the contrapuntal lines dissolve into a sense of water burbling over stones.

Subsequent pieces are by turns thoughtful, reflective, inquisitive, exploratory, tentative, touched by melodrama, and developments of energetic lines of music that flow, fly or flit through the incremental repetitions of minimalist and serial rows.

This two-disc set is companionable music suitable for many situations.







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