|Pianist Emanuele Arciuli has recorded American piano music before among the dozen or so releases he has made for the Stradivarius label, and Stradivarius' F. Rzewski -- J. Adams: Piano Works represents his fourth such effort. Arciuli's live performances have gained kudos from composers such as George Crumb, who commented to Arciuli after a Cincinnati performance in 1999 that "my music has never been so wonderfully performed." This disc restores to the catalog the Four Pieces (1977) by Frederic Rzewski, recorded by the composer for Vanguard when it was truly "new" music, but not seen in a long time. John Adams' Phrygian Gates is available in a number of other versions, but the more the merrier. Arciuli's version of Phrygian Gates is different from most others in that Adams' metronome markings are slightly modified; as Arciuli puts it, "I felt they did not suit the sound that I wanted and I (...) sacrificed numerical symmetry for the sake of the music"
One intriguing aspect of this Stradivarius release is the liner notes, written by Arciuli in a conversational style that acknowledges the first person; rather unusual as liner notes tend to be more formal and impersonal. One wonders what Arciuli means in saying "After years of a communication gap, not to say breakdown, between those who wrote music and those who had to play it, the return of composers who could truly play an instrument (...) brought virtuosity back in from the cold." What is this -- a new kind of elitism brought into account for the sins of the old? Nonetheless, Arciuli's notes are informative, for example he explains that acceptance of this American "new music" is far from universal in Europe, where there remains opposition to minimalism and other post-modern styles.
While Arciuli might not be quite on the money in terms of his evaluation of late-century trends, his performances of these pieces are pretty close to ideal in some ways -- stylish, secure, and well-planned.