|These first recordings of the piano works of the great yet largely unsung Polish composer Roman Haubenstock-Ramati (who spent his life between Poland, Israel, and Vienna) are indeed the work of a post-Webern, post-Messiaen, post-Boulez composer. Using three notational strategies from 1956 on — none of this other work would he allow to be documented — they involved the graphic, conventional, and the mobile ("Mobile for Shakespeare, 1960"). These were not periods of compositional notation, they remained in rotational use throughout his life.
What is evidenced here is how large the sonic order of Haubenstock-Ramati's architecture was. From the short, near-Cageian timbral experiments of his 1963/1964 "Klavierstuck" to the two versions of his "Catch 1" from 1968, where space itself dictated how the work would be executed, tiny sounds, tape, and extended pedal work produced microphonics that echoed shimmering in the silence. Alterations inside the piano itself produced tonal aberrations that are reminiscent of clipped bird songs and posed problems of meter and how it was organized in the confines not only of the score but in the musician's vocabulary.
In the final three works on disc one, the "Pour Piano From 1973," "Sonate für Klavier" (begun in 1983 and finished in 1989), and his latest piano work "Tenebrae," completed in 1991, we hear the painterly — specifically Kandinsky and Pollock — methods of gathering musical information Haubenstock-Ramati used. Elements from the piano's physical construction became elemental priorities in the scores: beating on the wood frame, plucking at strings, kicking pedals, playing electronic tape as accompaniment to the percussive nature of the instruments. All of these are effects that mess with the long harmony tradition — even Arnold Schoenberg's theoretical one. In "Tenebre" the performer is given all the blocks, and must organize them herself according to a "memory" of the composer's ideas about music.
But the truly last achievement here is on disc two, the "Miroirs" written in 1984 and revised as a final will and testament in 1991. The sonic alterations in Haubenstock-Ramati's intervallic and harmonic architecture are variegated and distinct from his use of time. His use of tempo and rhythm is much more dense. The piece should be played, "as fast as comfortably possible." And registers are stacked against each other with echoed and dampened pedals to create their individual identities, offering a sense of time, rhythm, meter, and interval, and all turn in on themselves as a way of trying to reconcile that which cannot be reconciled: tonal consonance. The dissonance here is not so much unsettling as it is new, and pure of the conceits and methodologies of previous generations of composition. There is some freedom for Carol Morgan here as she rails through sections of this 42-minute work with relish and ferocity, while in others she holds the reins and allows the skeins of chords their timbral zone of creation. She is a phenomenal pianist, and hopefully we will hear more of her in modern musical interpretation. Pour Piano is an essential collection of piano music for anyone interested in how beautiful and dignified the margins of late-20th century composition could be.