Entropy, the third concert in Melbourne Digital Concert Hall’s Women in Music Festival, featured three substantial piano masterpieces performed with absolute sensitivity and impeccable execution by Stefan Cassomenos.
Composer Natalie Williams describes Concert Etude – Entropy (2002)as a work based on the principles of concentrated or diffused energetic states, using simple quartel and quintal harmonies, and themes that intertwine and play against each other. There were so many engaging elements – spiky fragments, echoing voices, contrapuntal configurations, flowing syncopations, and long fluid lines and arpeggios, which demanded a variety of timbres from the subdued to the sparkling. The final explosion of towering ascending treble chords against descending bass chords was wild and exciting. This was a super composition!
Liza Lim’s The Four Seasons (after Cy Twombly) (2009) was inspired by the massive four-panelled work “Quattro Stagioni” by Cy Twombly on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Lim’s response revealed great introspection and timelessness with stark, dark and bare dissonant intervals evoking calmness and coldness. Single icy notes penetrated the silences. Lone low resonant chords and the use of extreme pitches made both Autumn and Winter emotionally striking and sensitive movements. Tremolos, active chord clusters, percussive and insistence repetitions of single notes or close pairs of notes suggested the awakenings of Spring. There was more activity and freedom in Summer, new colour and warmth in shimmering clusters, increased repetition and momentum, beautiful wide spaced chords, and open harmonies in a super finale.
Piano Sonata (2018) by Elizabeth Younan was equally impressive with its virtuosic activity, lively contrapuntal structures, defined motifs and contemporary jazz language in chords and rhythms. The second movement showed melodic ballad writing which developed into a staccato perpetual motion with a free and improvisatory feel as notes from motifs would be scattered then rejoin gracefully in tonal scale patterns. This was another highly sophisticated and virtuosic work with many brilliant contrasts. The final movement exploited spiky off-beat chords, at first cheeky and playful, then becoming vibrant and powerful quasi orchestral chords as glissandos and wild pulse beats took us to a flamboyant and decisive ending. Wonderful music.
Julie McErlain reviewed the piano recital Entropy, performed by Stefan Cassomenos and presented as part of Melbourne Digital Concert Hall’s Women in Music Festival on July 19, 2020.