GEORG FRIEDRICH HAAS (b.1953): 3 Hommages for 2 Pianos (tuned a quarter-tone apart).
Catalogue Number: 10U068
Label: New Focus Recordings
Description: These three pieces, written in close succession in the early 1980s, are an extreme, monolithic example of Haas' ongoing search for a whole world of music that exists in parallel with ours, but a quantum step away. By placing two pianos at right angles, their keyboards side by side, tuning them a quarter-tone apart and having us listen to multiples of ten minutes of slowly - very slowly - progressing incessantly repeated, very simple material, Haas is forcing us into the interstices between our world and an unsettlingly incrementally different parallel one. The result is an exciting exploration, or an infuriating battering compared to which conventional minimalism is easy listening, depending on your point of view. The Hommage to Ligeti consists of a continuous stream of rapidly hammered notes, dyads and chords, different ones in the two pianos, that gradually change, but often not simultaneously, and progress in register from the deepest bass to the treble of the pianos. This is viscerally exciting, but also psychoacoustically fascinating. The juxtaposition of chords produces the unfamiliar harmonies of a 24-note scale, and the overlapping sustained tones generate strange beats and resonances. But something else happens as well; if you've ever spent time listening to music in just intonation, when you return to equal temperament music, everything sounds out of tune. The reverse happens here; gradually the strange quarter-tone harmony starts to make perfect sense, like the alien music in Asimov's story 'The Secret Sense'. The Hommage to the 'other' 12-tone pioneer is a series of gently flowing arpeggios divided between the two pianos, simultaneously disorienting and soothing. The Hommage to Reich is, effectively, quarter-tone Reich, with insistent little patterns of notes moving in and out of rhythmic synchronisation and, here, generating different levels of quarter-tone-ness in the harmony generated between them; the effect is like that of the mobile, flickering illumination of an early magic lantern. Mabel Kwan (pianist).