This collection is a little confusing in part because of the confusing nature of Rrrrrrr…, which can apparently be performed independently. The disc appears to be a compilation of his piano-based music. Calling “piano music” would be a misnomer, as there are lots of other instruments on a number of the pieces.
The pieces from Rrrrrrr… are all over the place in terms of style, starting with ragtime and running the gamut of styles, through pretty traditional to really avant garde stuff (a prepared piano, a “raga”). I like how Kagel turns music on its here but here I have to say I’m slightly confused; the idea of a piece that can be performed in parts or in wholes, by different instruments, confuses the hell of me. That’s the intention. But for once I feel like I’m the butt of the joke rather than in on it, which is a weird feeling. I like the music though.
Ludwig van is supposedly the score to a film he made in 1969, but I have also read that it’s an unrelated piece of music with the same name. This being Kagel, either is possible. It starts out very impressionistically, which is not something I associate (exactly) with Beethoven. Voices and other instruments come in on the later movements and by the third movement, some of the music is more recognizable as classical or romantic, though it’s blended together with more avant garde ideas and in very modern ways. It’s only in the second last piece, where “Ode to Joy” is quoted, where I really get the Beethoven references. I don’t know that it works as a tribute to Beethoven. It does work as a provocative piece of music, breaking down our ideas of form.
Der Eid des Hippokrates is one of those piano pieces where the piano is used in unconventional ways. It requires three hands and one of them must be doing that knocking. It’s not something that’s going to stay with me.
I like the idea of Unguis incarnatus est because the backing instrumentation is flexible. This is something I am intrigued by. The piece itself is pretty impressionistic, and nice enough.
The piano version of MM51 is for piano and metronome. That’s something new for me. The metronome appears to speed up and slow down slightly – though I guess that could be some kind of aural illusion based on the piano part… It’s an interesting piece; I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anything like it before.
It’s fitting that this collection is idiosyncratic, as Kagel was himself. But it’s weird listening to music that is ostensibly piano music and keeps having this instruments and voices pop in. I can’t imagine what it would be like to perform some of this stuff live. The music itself is also inconsistent. I’m not sure if that’s because Kagel didn’t write enough for piano or because Tharaud picked weird stuff. I like some of it a lot and some of it I would be fine if I never heard again. A real mixed bag.