Of all the art forms to which Michael Nyman has turned his hand, film music is the one which reveals him most as a craftsman: it’s impossible to imagine The Draughtsman’s Contract without the prancing neo-Baroque fanfare which provides its sadistic edge. But this CD wrenches his film music from its original context and presents it as a series of piano pieces (a potentially risky strategy), with YouTube’s ‘most viewed’ pianist, Valentina Lisitsa, as its champion.
Nyman’s large scores are built out of blocks of texture and colour, and most of these very short pieces are individual blocks, each based on a simple formula – sometimes strident, more often winsome – which harmlessly noodles along. There are intermittent echoes of Chopin, Messiaen and, above all, Satie(though without the last-named composer’s laconic charm), but this music never achieves even the remotest surprise.
Lisitsa is a genuinely good pianist, and she does all she can to characterise each piece with a crisply evocative touch. For piano buffs, this CD will be mere background music, but for those wanting to recapture a whiff of The Piano, Carrington and the Peter Greenaway classics, it will be a musical memory lane.