MICHAEL NYMAN – “Michael Nyman and Motion Trio”: MICHAEL NYMAN: In Re Don Giovanni; Knowing the Ropes; Trysting Fields; Wedding Tango; Come Unto These Yellow Sands; If; Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds: The Heart Asks Pleasure First; Miranda; JANUSZ WOJTAROWICZ: Silence – Michael Nyman, piano/Nigel Barr, trombone and euphonium/ Motion Trio accordions (Janusz Wojtarowicz, Pawel Baranek, Marcin Galazyn) – Michael Nyman Recordings MNRCD 117, 45:42 [Distr. by Allegro] ***:
Many people are familiar with the music of Michael Nyman – and its characteristic loud, fast, chugging style – through his film scores. Most American listeners, myself included, first became aware of Nyman through the fascinating, if not somewhat bizarre, films of British art house producer Peter Greenaway, for whom Nyman was his composer of choice.
I admit, I am a big fan. Those films and – of course – his quite different sumptuous score to Jane Campion’s “The Piano” got me to listen to more of Michael Nyman and to appreciate his very unique, quirky, energetic and, occasionally beautiful style. The problem, as I see it, with this set by the Motion Trio is that it should not be one’s first exposure to Nyman’s sound world. The Motion Trio, headed by Janusz Wojtarowicz, is three acoustic accordion players from Poland. They play very well and in a tight ensemble fashion that certainly lends itself to Nyman’s music. On these pieces, they are supported by Nyman’s own piano and the brass playing of Nyman Band regular, Nigel Barr.
All the Nyman “best of” are present including the well known “In Re Don Giovanni” (a sort of Mozart tribute), the “Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds” and even one of the more poignant set pieces from “The Piano”, “The Heart Asks Pleasure First”. All of the selections are carefully selected by Nyman and are well-played. The package notes indicate that Wojtarowicz approached Nyman about using some of his music for the 7th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival in 2009. Nyman has travelled in Poland and is of Polish descent, providing more cultural and emotional connections for the performers, I suspect. It actually works and sounds well. I just think that the original scoring; with Nyman’s beefy brass playing and kinetic strings is more attention getting, more bold sounding. With Nyman’s help, the Trio found these pieces that might work best on three accordions.
I do like this album, as I do all Nyman. However, I do believe this disc appeals most to the cognoscenti who are already well acquainted with Nyman. I am not so sure that people who buy this disc as their first ever exposure to Michael Nyman, a very talented man, would become an instant fan. There is nothing to dislike here, I do not believe; just not enough to really get blown away by. So, I do give this particular disc a “conditional” recommendation and do recommend that people should go try one of his better known originals, like “The Draughtman’s Contract” or even (by all means) “The Piano”. As Janusz Wojtarowicz says in the package notes (in “quoting a detractor”), “Michael Nyman’s music is so wonderful it even sounds good on the accordion.”
— Daniel Coombs