Charlemagne Palestine From Etudes to Cataclysms

Though a more obscure and shadowy figure than some other pioneering American minimalists of the ’60s (Young, Riley, Reich, Glass), Charlemagne Palestine’s work is slowly garnering more attention. The composer and pianist’s performances are renowned for his intense hammering of the ivories — he practically pours himself into the instrument. He’s the perfect artist, then, to play the "Doppio Borgato,” a double-bodied grand, with the second body featuring lower register notes played with the feet. It is unfortunate that, at first, this 140-minute work (over two CDs) doesn’t appear to fully exploit this tonal range. The "etudes” of disc one begin with high register exploration of relationships between two tones, modulating downward. As the piece progresses, Palestine’s simple pulses evolve into more complex clusters, and what could have been mind-numbingly repetitive becomes a meditation on the resonant space around the notes. More emotionally affecting are the "cataclysms” of disc two, though the music doesn’t contain as much immediate menace as the title suggests. More like looking through a window onto a storm-darkened ocean in the distance, these seemingly endless minor-key rumbles become a strange and unexpected companion. (Sub Rosa)