ERIC CRAVEN (b.196?): Pieces for Pianists, Vol. 1: Nos. 1-25.
Catalogue Number: 02W075
Reference: MSV 28613
Description: Knowing nothing of the background to these works, the listener would hear them as an attractive set of short pieces with something of the character of studies, not by any means approaching transcendental levels of virtuosity in the manner of innumerable cycles of concert Études since Chopin, broadly tonal in harmony but not following any sequence of key centres. Their apparent simplicity puts them somewhat in the general area of Howard Skempton. As a prospective purchaser of the CD, this is probably all you really need to know. However, being invited into the ‘composer’s workshop' raises a host of more complicated issues, which may be of interest. Craven has developed a 'non-prescriptive' compositional technique, by which he leaves a far wider range of parameters in the hands of the performer than is usual in notated music - anything between providing pitches and durations but nothing else, to leaving everything other than pitch information to the player. Dullea is his ideal collaborator, as a contemporary specialist accustomed to unorthodox requirements; she negotiated his far more complex and demanding sonatas with aplomb on 09Q094, and these pieces, intended to bring gratification to pianists of a wide range of technical ability, are realized imaginatively and characterfully. The lofty intellect responsible for the booklet notes dismisses the term “approachable” as "lazy critical shorthand", preferring the evidently more exact "communicative immediacy", so it is this that we must attribute to Craven's appealing little pieces, satisfying and undemanding in equal measure for the listener. The composer most frequently likely to be evoked for comparison is probably Debussy, due to Craven's choice of consonant harmony that avoids functional triadic progressions, which also allies the pieces to jazz. In cases such as the jaunty promenade of No.22, the degree to which the rhythmic presentation of the material that suggests these affinities is attributable to Dullea's input is unclear without the score, but the effect for the listener is most attractive.