On Record – Vanessa Wagner: Mirrored (InFiné)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Vanessa Wagner has been quick to follow up her March release, Study Of The Invisible, where she thoughtfully compiled an album of modern piano music that might be described as ‘minimal’ but which led to a series of inventive and rewarding compositions, imaginatively sequenced.

Mirrored is a collection of studies for solo piano, largely contemplative spaces that leave plenty of room for meditation and a get-out clause from today’s fast-moving world. Normally a listener might associate piano studies with application of technique; functional pieces rather than emotive; but this collection is very much studies in the form of moods and mental images.

What’s the music like?

Introspective, yet wholly rewarding. Particularly engaging is Wagner’s selection of music by Philip Glass, well-chosen and beautifully played. The Poet Acts is a sombre, thoughtful piece, opening out like an uneasy berceuse. Etude 4 is very different, a turbulent and agitated piece generating a large amount of nervous energy. By contrast Etude 2 is a thoughtful contemplation with a hint of darkness, led as it is by the low left hand, before building to a forceful conclusion.

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Solitude has a similar profile, though its plaintive right hand melody leads the way. Plaintive is also the word that could be used for Nico Muhly’s Quiet Music, though this has an inner power generated through a soft but meaningful chorale, which makes it sound like a deeply spiritual statement. Melaine Dalibert’s Six + Six has gentle undulations that go on their way in watery figurations, while Sylvain Chauveau adopts a still profile for the simple and meaningful Mineral.

Moondog’s Sea Horses is short but descriptive, an active piece flitting this way and that. A similar freedom is afforded to the right hand in Léo Ferré’s Opus X, where the melody is free to travel up and down in the treble as it wishes.

Does it all work?

It does. Once again Vanessa Wagner has chosen a logical and rewarding sequence of pieces, and her affinity with the music of Philip Glass in particular makes these compelling recordings. She has an unusual and vivid sensitivity for this music, creating many different keyboard colours in the course of the collection.

Is it recommended?

Yes – provided you also have Study Of The Invisible, which is the ideal complement to these pieces.

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