MICHAEL NYMAN: “The Piano Sings 2” = (TrackList follows) – Michael Nyman, piano– MN Records MNRCD 131, 49:53 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] (2/11/14) ***:
Michael Nyman has become fairly well-known to the casual listener through his numerous film scores but he remains a bit of a niche composer; almost with a cult following. Except for the brilliant Jane Campion film, The Piano; which received a wide release and some Oscar attention, most of the films Nyman has written for are small scale, art house and – occasionally – odd films. His first scores were for a series of extremely esoteric films by the British filmmaker Peter Greenaway, such as “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.”
Many of Nyman’s scores with his own ensemble are characterized by what was primarily his own brand of loud, beefy, Baroque influenced minimalism. However, the works that have garnered Nyman a much wider appeal are those featuring softer, more luxurious and somewhat sensuous piano work, such as the model score, The Piano.
This collection is comprised of extracts from Nyman’s piano scores, played by the composer himself. I have not heard The Piano Sings 1 but I have read that the present collection contains a bit more variety. I have heard most of the soundtracks before and have seen many of the films. The music in this collection does offer nice range of mood and style, although Nyman’s style is one of those that, the more you listen, the more recognizable it becomes.
I like Nyman’s music a great deal, actually. Certainly like all composers I think there are some truly impressive works and some not as much. In the present collection, I think anyone would really enjoy the extracts from the films Gattaca, The Piano and Everyday. I admit there might be something subconscious at work as I greatly enjoyed the films, as well – each by some very gifted filmmakers with a compelling – slightly dark – story line. (Nyman has worked with Michael Winterbottom, the director of Everyday before to great success. I heartily suggest both the film and the soundtrack to his 2000 The Claim about the greed and desperation that drove the ‘gold rush’ in the late nineteenth century.)
There are some lesser-knowns here too. I enjoyed getting to know the snippets from his The Actors, a comedy with Michael Caine (!) or The Libertine (starring Johnny Depp as some real life 17th century promiscuous chap!) There is even Nyman’s score to an animated version of The Diary of Anne Frank.
Ultimately, the music will hold its own appeal or not. I do not know if this would be my choice to introduce someone to the music of Michael Nyman but there is nothing here that would not appeal to the uninitiated.
The music is, generally, lovely and easy to listen to and Nyman, as a pianist, is certainly quite capable and delivers the phrasing and emotion well, as we might expect. I think anyone ought to enjoy this!
TrackList (All selections by Michael Nyman):
- 1. Becoming Jerome (Gattaca)
- 2. House on Fire (The Actors)
- 3. Digital Tragedy (Man with a Movie Camera)
- 4. Zinc Bar (The Actors)
- 5. The Mood that Passes through You (The Piano)
- 6. Silver-fingered Fling (The Piano)
- 7. Goodbye Moortie (The Diary of Anne Frank)
- 8. Through the Only Window
- 9. Sadie’s Song
- 10. An Eye for Optical Theory (The Draughtsman’s Contract)
- 11. Dolores (The Actors)
- 12. The 7th Visit (Everyday)
- 13. The Mistress (The Libertine)
- 14. House on Fire (The Actors reprise)
- 15. Franklin (Wonderland)