Michael Nyman in Concert DVD review
Audiophile Audition : Sep 4th, 2011
The composer credited with coining the term “minimalist” certainly is.
The composer who is credited with coining the term “minimalist” certainly is. The smallish crowd assembled in the studio in Handel’s hometown of Halle, Germany are obviously the sort who are also fans of Reich and Glass. But I could imagine for those who are not fans, Nyman might get on their nerves even faster than the other two—for his in-your-face, loud brassy repetitions tied to a rapid-fire Jerry Lee Lewis piano ostinato. It’s especially interesting to see Nyman rapidly pounding away at those repeated simple piano chords.
Nyman has created many scores for the avant British director Peter Greenaway, but he came to the eye of the general public primarily due to his fine score for the Jane Campion film The Piano. His general procedure (which eventually became tiresome to these ears after 86 minutes of it) is to recycle musical material from Handel, Purcell or Mozart. He takes some of their melodies and chords and encases them in new outfits using his tonal but steadfastly minimalist rhythms and harmonies. Nyman’s band has some strings, but is mostly brass and saxes with electric guitar, no clarinets or oboes. Most of the pieces on the program are quite short, except for the German premiere of the 21-minute The Musicologist Scores, which makes heavy use of Handelian themes. Only at a couple points in the whole program is the constant insistent rhythmical offensive relaxed at all. Often the pieces don’t really have a conclusion—they simply all stop playing together; very well rehearsed. The final selection was one of Nyman’s first and sounds to me the most successful of all his works: taking a theme from one of the arias of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Nyman created In Re Don Giovanni.
The images are varied—there was a camera crane—including some great closeups of the players, and the sound is also excellent.
— John Sunier