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Anthony Romaniuk - Bells - Gramophone

Playlist culture dominates today’s piano scene, with more and more artists favouring thematic or conceptual programmes from short stand-alone pieces and single movements of large-scale compositions. The present recital is a case in point, where Anthony Romaniuk puts his multi-keyboard classical and improvising skills to the test, alternating between concert grand, harpsichord, fortepiano and the once ubiquitous Fender Rhodes electric piano.

Romaniuk starts out on acoustic piano, where the unfettered melodies and droning accompaniment of Bartók’s ‘Bagpipe Music’ segue into a deliciously brisk and supple Bach A minor English Suite Prelude. He repeats the Prelude on the Fender Rhodes at a slower pace. He follows a curvy reading of Debussy’s ‘Voiles’ with an incisively articulated seventh movement from Ligeti’s Musica ricercata. Byrd’s The Bells and ‘Twin Suns’ from Crumb’s Makrokosmos Book 2 audaciously juxtapose, followed by a drivingly lean and mean Beethoven B minor Bagatelle, Op 126 No 4.

After two slow and beautifully played Bartók and Mompou selections, Romaniuk turns to the fortepiano, where he eases his way into Mozart’s B minor Adagio with an improvised introduction that’s closer to Keith Jarrett than to Wolfgang Amadeus. A vital and crisply delineated fortepiano performance of the Rondo from Beethoven’s Op 28 makes me curious to hear Romaniuk’s take on the entire sonata. The distinctive yet arguably dated timbre of the Fender Rhodes may lead you to mistake an anonymous Flemish piece from around 1300 for jazz pianist Les McCann warming up circa 1972. An eloquently restrained improvisation featuring a reiterated C natural pedal point in the left hand assiduously slips into Shostakovich’s C major Prelude and Fugue. It’s a perfect piece for Romaniuk to decompress from his eclectic, imaginatively programmed keyboard journey.

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Gramophone
01 November 2020