Bobby Mitchell & Tom Rosenkranz – Scherzinger Etudes (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/96kHz | Time – 01:00:09 minutes | 958 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © New Focus Recordings
Composer Martin Scherzinger releases his second album with New Focus, Scherzinger Etudes, focusing on his piano etudes. Performed here by pianist Bobby Mitchell, Scherzinger describes these works as “a topological study of found musical sound,” taking existing music by composers such as Brahms, Schumann, and Paganini, and putting them through “a hall of mirrors” to re-examine them from new angles and open our ears to their many possibilities.
Composer and musicologist Martin Scherzinger brings a unique background to his work. Born and raised in South Africa, Scherzinger has made the vast realm of African musical traditions a focus of his research, both through deep investigation of original styles as well as an examination of how Western artists have engaged with, incorporated, and appropriated African music within their work. On this new release, featuring pianist Bobby Mitchell, we hear Scherzinger integrating two seemingly disparate musical worlds he was exposed to as a child – the European solo piano tradition and traditional African music. By manipulating and reordering material from Schumann, Brahms, Paganini, and Chopin and occasionally applying an “Africanized” rhythmic and motivic filter, Scherzinger reconciles his own musical youth while creating a fascinating hybrid.
Among Scherzinger’s axes to grind with the conventional Western understanding of music from Africa is a series of assumptions about the centering of rhythm, meter, and repetition over linear development and harmonic motion. He asserts that while this may accurately describe a surface level understanding of some African music, when one looks deeper, intricate mathematical patterning lies behind the organization of multiple parts and sections. His first release on New Focus, African Math, explored these ideas more explicitly through the lens of the piano trio. Here, by neutralizing some of the salient features of both African music (for instance, we are hearing this music on an equal tempered piano, not an instrument strongly associated with African music) and European piano music (many of the more linear types of harmonic progressions are rounded off to create cyclical structures), we hear similarities between the two we might not have noticed previously. Is it an imitation of a polyrhythmic cycle one might encounter readily in African traditional music, or music shaped by the lilt of a central European dance style?
The propulsive ostinato that opens into joyful arpeggiations in the opening track, The Horse Is Not Mine, a Hobby Horse, simultaneously suggests interlocking mallet instruments and the dynamism of implied counterpoint and registral voice leading in moto perpetuo textures.
The opening section of Verso il Capo, Verso il Capo II and Mbiras de St. Gervais hint at French Baroque style as well as spacious kora improvisations.
Some of the etudes lean more clearly in one direction or the other – Paganini, Piano Hero for instance is a more straightforward exploration of the famous Caprice theme and Occidentalism sounds like it could live in a collection of late Romantic character pieces.
Likembe-Liszt lives on the other side of the continuum, referencing a lamellophone common in the Congo and Uganda. And yet, underlying all of these examples are hints of a diverse sensibility from the other end of Scherzinger’s stylistic spectrum.
More often than not in Scherzinger’s fresh approach we can hear these influences at once, illuminating not only his personal exploration of common ground between the musics in his past but also the links between seemingly disparate musical traditions. Bobby Mitchell’s deft navigation of these stylistic allusions is seamless – rhapsodic when the texture calls for it and equally able to find the right touch and articulation to bring syncopated rhythms alive. – Dan Lippel
1. Etude No. 1 “The Horse Is Not Mine, a Hobby Horse” (02:28)
2. Etude No. 2 “Verso il capo” (05:03)
3. Etude No. 3 “Fast zu sorglos” (02:20)
4. Etude No. 4 “Errata Erratica” (04:33)
5. Etude No. 5 “Kinderreim” (02:06)
6. Etude No. 6 “Chopi-Chopin” (05:16)
7. Etude No. 7 “Likembe-Liszt” (03:11)
8. Etude No. 8 “Rondo `a la rondo” (02:07)
9. Etude No. 9 “Paganini, Piano Hero” (05:06)
10. Etude No. 10 “Occidentalism” (02:44)
11. Etude No. 11 “Mbele ni Nyuma” (03:56)
12. Etude No. 12 “Gigue” (02:48)
13. Etude No. 13 “Mbiras de St. Gervais” (04:47)
14. Etude No. 14 “Perso, ma felice” (03:12)
15. Etude No. 15 “Verso II capo II” (10:32)