CD – The readers of this blog met Ivan Ilić in April 2012. The American pianist of Serbian origin had chosen Bordeaux as a base and released a disc of Chopin Studies revisited by Leopold Godowsky. He had already flabbergasted us with his excellent technique; here he elevates our spirit with a captivating and profound new disc, “The Transcendentalist”.
The cover, a distortion of a painting by Dali, is disconcerting. In it, the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson replaces Lenin … Mysteries, dreams, symbols: pianist Ivan Ilić’s programme is inspired by American Transcendentalism and weaves Scriabin’s Preludes with music by John Cage and Morton Feldman, two geniuses of the hippie generation. Ilić’s elegant, concentrated playing reveals the depth of this transparent music.
In the CD’s liner notes, he explains the connections and the musical lineage: “If one were to draw a family tree for the solo piano repertoire, the works on this album would all fall on branches descending from Frederic Chopin. Chopin was perhaps the most idiomatic composer for the piano, but his music epitomizes an affect that many 20th century composers rejected outright.
“It is therefore all the more surprising that one of the most distinctive composers of the early 20th century, Alexander Scriabin, took Chopin’s writing as a point of departure. Few composers developed their musical language as quickly and as dramatically as Scriabin, yet the surface of his piano music maintains a palpable link to Chopin’s. In addition to the “liquid” quality they have in common, the result of luxurious pedaling, there is also the intimate knowledge of the piano’s different registers, and the gently melancholic, yet elegant characterization of their melodies.
“All of these traits are shared by the works of John Cage, Morton Feldman and Scott Wollschleger featured here. In these works each of these American composers tries not so much to reinvent the use of the piano, as to extend it towards a possible future.”
Part of this article will be published in TGV Magazine in June 2014