GABRIEL PROKOFIEV: “Piano Book No. 1” – GeNIA, piano– Nonclassical

by | Mar 25, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

GABRIEL PROKOFIEV: “Piano Book No. 1” = Sketch; Rockaby; Glass Swing; Tough Moves; Cold Wooden Window; Key Pulses (Wind Up Scott); Side Dance; Entrance; Clock Watt; Black Sauce; Fky House – GeNIA, piano– Nonclassical Recordings nonclss006, 37:15 [Distr. by Naxos] ***:
This album automatically raises two fascinating questions before you even play it: Who is GeNIA (spelled that way) and could Gabriel Prokofiev be related to that Prokofiev?
First, a look at GeNIA’s website – which is well done – does not reveal her given or birth name, being born in the Ukraine. That really isn’t as interesting, anyway, as the fact that she is apparently very well-trained, having begun piano studies at a very early age with Regina Horowitz, sister of the great Vladimir Horowitz and completing ample prestigious training in London. She has since done an extensive amount of performing and has expanded her repertoire to the point that she really no longer participates in the big, traditional classical forms. GeNIA has gotten deeply into jazz, rock, new music and so forth and, according to some press comments on her website, she is “an enigma to both the music and business worlds (and has) become an unstoppable entity constantly seeking to reinvent tradition and stir up conversation.” All right, then. Potential hyperbole aside, this really is a pretty interesting collection.
The second fascinating question that the package notes do not address is answered, “Yes”. The composer is the grandson of the twentieth century master, Serge Prokofiev. Gabriel has clearly inherited the creativity and the innovation of form in the Prokofiev line. The music crosses styles from the moody, to the terse, to the beautifully reflective. The pieces sound almost like improvisation and come from some of the same world as his work with the Elysian String Quartet. As for GeNIA, she has received critical acclaim for her live performances and contemporary classical releases for Black Box and Nonclassical. She has commissioned over 20 new works, particularly developing the repertoire for piano and electronics, and collaborated with an eclectic range of artists (Vex’d, The EarlyMan, Max de Wardener, kREEPA, Gabriel Prokofiev, Derailer, Trevor Goodchilde, Germ, John Richards, Roman Mints, Patrick Nunn, Mike McFerron, Jamie Telford, Brodsky Quartet, Ensemble Bash, Hayden Parsey and Ravi Deepres). Both Gabriel Prokofiev and GeNIA, like so many other younger Russian and English artists come very much from a less formal and more introspective type of playing and writing. They represent (literally) the MySpace generation and even this label – their own venture – Nonclassical is self-described as music that is “classical and not classical, taking inspiration from ‘grime’, the Baroque and the avant-garde”.
Of the pieces on the “Piano Book #1”, I personally thought some stood out more than others; “Cold Wooden Window” is almost impressionistic in its feel, as is “Entrance”. “Tough Moves” is built on blocks of repetition, not in any para-minimalist sense but with its own unique DNA.  “Clock Watt” is both very metronome-like as well as possessed by a very lilting melody. This music is probably not for everyone (for anyone for example who likes to be able to predict where a piece is going) but very interesting none the less and somewhat captivating.  I would like to get to know more by this Prokofiev as well as maybe hear more from performer GeNIA!
— Daniel Coombs

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