Artist: Henri Feuillade
Title: Wraith Paradigm
Released: March 2013
Genre: Solo Piano
Artist Country: Russia
Catalog Number: Petroglyph105
License: CC BY-ND
It’s not often that I know that I am going to be compelled to write a review of a release after listening to the first few minutes. I can only think of a few releases that struck a chord with me immediately: Space Weirdo’s Cosmonaut, Graphiqsgroove2009, and Joe Frawley’s Angel Boxes are the ones that jump immediately to mind. And, even of those three, I never wrote a review of Angel Boxes. Wraith Paradigm joins the ranks of these recordings that made extremely strong, immediate impressions on me. Now, let me explain why I had such a strong, immediate reaction to this work.
Henri Feuillade’s real name is Gennady Vladimirov, which had me confused for a few minutes. However it doesn’t make any difference whether he is Henri or Gennady. There is a long tradition of Russian composers with excellent ideas, and the type of composition finesse Gennady presents in this work. Which is to say, Gennady is in excellent company with composers like Tchaikovsky and Shostakovitch from a musical (but not stylistic) perspective.
The notes for this release state that it was inspired by Simeon ten Holt´s Canto Ostinato which is a work I am unfamiliar with. However, the technique that Gennady uses in this composition is familiar from another area of music: twelve-tone compositions. The ides is that the composer chooses a series of tones from a scale, and works with that series in by applying different relationships to the notes. I don’t believe Gennady’s technique is as stringent as the twelve-tone structure, however the results are a set of beautiful, minimal piano works that are engaging and fun to listen to.
But it’s not just the compositions that make this release worth listening to. Lots of musicians today could have taken these pieces and recorded them using a keyboard and done some electronic presentation of them. However, in this case, it was only fitting that they be recorded on a real acoustic piano. There are plenty of risks to this, everything from not having the pianistic skills to present the pieces well, to not having the technical skill to make a good recording. Neither of which is true in this case. The engineering and production work for these recordings is excellent, as is the choice of a space to record them (which is not mentioned in the notes for this release).
As for the performance, well, let’s say that is a bit of a surprise — and a pleasant one. I mentioned before that Gennady would be in excellent company with past Russian composers. However, where he doesn’t fit in is in his performance style. The immediate impression I had when I started listening to these recordings was that this was someone who had studied Keith Jarrett’s works thoroughly, more specifically, his solo piano recordings. I felt as if I was listening to sections of the Bremen / Lausanne concerts that had been edited out. And that is why I had this overwhelming, immediate need to review this recording. The Keith Jarrett solo paino works remain some of my favorites, and the immediate connection I felt to them launched this recording to the top of my list to review.
Don’t take this comparison the wrong way… There are some points at which it is obvious that Gennady Vladimirov cannot be confused with Keither Jarrett. However, it is nice to find a recording that fits in the same niche as the Keith Jarrett works, and is available as a Creative Commons release. Check out this work. Tell me you don’t fall in love with it as quickly as I did.
And a footnote to this review. I believe this is the first time I have encountered Petroglyph Music. While I haven’t had too much time, I did poke around a few of the releases in their back catalog, and found them to be quite interesting. This is a label that will be worth keeping an eye on.