The Mark of Excellence

Adam Sherkin

As At First

By Nick StorringDon't judge Toronto, ON-based pianist/composer Adam Sherkin's debut album by its cover. Allegedly "forged in tradition and contemporary relevance," and containing several homages to the classical music canon, these compositions are in fact far more interesting and personal than encumbered by their "dead white guy" forbearers. Sherkin's music is unmistakably that of a young, living, breathing and very gifted composer. This being 2012 though, he's not really an iconoclast either; instead, his work manifests gentle contradictions. Each piece is varied, even audibly drawing from numerous aesthetics and traditions, yet everything sounds expertly crafted and cohesive. One hears cell-like motives from American minimalism, colouristic Romanticism, as pioneered by Scriabin and Ravel, Satie's peculiar melodic gait and even shades of Messiaen's poised rectangularity, and yet, remarkably, it's in a language of his own. The works are also fluid, yet full of kinks ― stray notes diverging from the anticipated trajectory, belligerent interjections or delicately profuse addendums. A far cry from crass virtuoso showpieces, this collection flatters Sherkin's cogent and sensitive agility on the instrument. Solo piano music is a deceptively difficult pursuit, but Sherkin is right on point, and has produced highly engaging full-length devoted to the medium.
(Centrediscs)
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