Amazon.com, Amman, Jordan, May 9, 2008
J.S. Bach, Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II
Intensely beautiful, but is it still Bach?
Well, this one's as different as they come, and I can't help but like it immensely. It may or may not resemble what Bach had in mind back in 1744, but it really doesn't matter, because in the 250 years that separate us from JS's day, conceptions have changed. Today's listener is likely to have heard everything from Fischer to Brookshire, and a modern performance has to address that level of awareness in its audience. Authenticity matters of course but our perceptions of what constitutes authenticity evolve too. The great musicians of today give us new ways of relating to the same music that would otherwise shrivel into irrelevance. So I think yes, this is still very much Bach attuned to our time.
Wood gives an ultra gentle account of the music, a performance intoxicating for its daring, intelligence, and beauty. With superlative vision from Rangell, Rubsam, Wood, and a few others, the musical world at last appears able to see past the great Glenn Gould. Not that the newer works displace the earlier; Feinberg, Richter, Tureck, and Gould are just as mesmerizing as ever.
I marvel and smile at Bach's ability to keep reeling them in -- all the best minds and intellects -- some three centuries on! No doubt he'll still be at it in a further 3 centuries.
21 Variations on a theme of Andrew Wood:
The brilliant American musician Edward Wood plays 21 Variations on a Theme of Andrew Wood, a work composed by the pianist in honor of his son's 21st birthday. Along with the theme itself, the inspired variations consist of Poco Allegro... Andante Serioso. Edward Wood is well-known for his spellbinding performances of PIANISSISSIMO by Donald Martino, one of the most extraordinary and difficult pieces of music ever written.
Ignatius Reilly, Brussels, Belgium, www.soundoo.com
EXCELLENT TRANSCRIPTIONS AND EXECUTION FROM A WIDE REPERTOIRE. Interesting, rare, romanticized transcriptions covering a large repertoire, from Handel to Sibelius. Enthusiasts of transcriptions by Liszt will be delighted, notably by the remarkable Beethoven Ninth Symphony [arranged by Louis Winkler]. The interpretation is varied, adapting well to the original work. An hour of unmitigated pleasure.
William Gregory, On the Turntable, Nov. 27, 2002
21 Variations on a theme of Andrew Wood:
Pianist/Composer Edward Wood has composed an album of mini-portraits
in tribute to his son's twenty-first birthday, Andrew Wood. These
Variations owe as much to the free-jazz-expressionistic school
of music as they do to the impressionistic stamp that imbues these
intelligent morsels of sound. This recording is an exchange in
ideas of the space found between notes and the chromaticism of
chord-clusters that goes on around them. The interplay of language
that exists between the twelve tone, impressionistic and free
form jazz genres, is illuminating and touching, without drawing
on pastiche or sentimentality. While the variations and themes
that make up these marvels in composition are primary and inventive,
I can't help but be reminded of Erik Satie, Debussy and just a
little bit of Charles Ives. Edward Wood compellingly plays these
compositions, and this recording would make a fine addition to
any serious collector of Modern Classical piano music.
THE BOSTON GLOBE, 2/11/1975
"DRAMA OF 'PIANISSISSIMO' PRECISE, COMPELLING: Last night's
Sanders Theater concert in the Fromm Foundation-harvard Music
Dept. contemporary music series gave much to listen to and think
about. We had ... the third performance-- the first before a large
audience-- of "Pianississimo" by Donald Martino. It was, all of
it, stimulating, provocative, absorbing. Martino's "Pianississimo"
... is not supersoft, but it is, in the composer's words, "the
most piano", written in response to a request from composer-pianist
Easely Blackwood to write the most difficult work possible. "Pianississimo"
is a full-grown sonata, half an hour long, with tons of notes,
and maximal variety of color and dynamics. It is difficult for
listeners, too, because the activity in that length is uncompromisingly
dense, because its patterns and progresses are not of sorts to
reveal themselves all at once, because you have to cut your way
through forbidding thickets of counterpoints to reach its melodies.
(In December, at its premiere in Jordan Hall, it was played twice
to the benefit of pianist and audience) But its drama is compelling
even when you don't follow the discourse in detail... Each time
I have heard it, it has held me quite extraordinarily. We will
be long exhausting this precise, expressive work, and its fantastical
piano scoring will engage composers and pianists for some time....Performances
were admirable, by members of Speculum Musicae in the Intonations;
by Edward Wood in "Pianississimo" (the intelligent pianist of
its first two performances, he is especially impressive in its
delicate moments and a bit gentle for its hailstorms)..."
Bruce Saylor, MUSICAL AMERICA, September, 1975
"The Group for Contemporary Music at the Manhattan School of Music... has for thirteen years offered a singular kind of atmosphere in which to present the music of our century. The performers are among the finest interpreters of contemporary music anywhere, and the programming places the latest works by young composers side by side with the great twentieth-century masterpieces and works by important living composers. The Group's April 28th concert in Hubbard Recital Hall represented this on-going tradition in a program including Charles Ives, our great American original, Francis Thorne and Donald Martino, composers in their middle years, and Erik Lundborg, a young composer receiving increasing attention in New York...Donald Martino's PIANISSISSIMO (1970) is a very long work for piano solo. The title refers not so much to the dynamic level but to the extreme virtuosity of the piano writing. While the texture is largely pointillistic, the entire range of contemporary piano techniques is used: plucking of strings, stopped notes, clusters and ringing sounds. Within many of the dense sections of pointillism certain melodic shapes seemed to emerge. ...PIANISSISSIMO was here given its New York premiere by Edward Wood, who apparently spent several years learning the piece. He played it, astonishingly, from memory, a real feat for such a work, demanding in the extreme on the best of pianists."
David Noble, QUINCY (MA) PATRIOT LEDGER, 5/2/1975,
REPORT: A WEEKEND SPENT WITH THE NEW MUSIC: "The hardest piano piece in the world, written by a Boston area man and played by another, and a music drama that could revive the Latin liturgy controversy were events in the Manhattan new music scene last weekend. The piano piece was played by Boston pianist Edward Wood Monday night in a concert of the Group for Contemporary Music in the Manhattan School of Music's Recital Hall in New York. Titled "Pianississimo", the new work was written five years ago by Donald Martino of the New England Conservatory (since then, Martino has won the Pulitzer Prize for music, but not for this piece). The title of the work means "very, very quiet" in its conventional musical usage, but Martino used it here to suggest the mammoth demands the work makes on a performer's technique. It was written to be the most difficult piece in the piano literature, at the request of a pianist who later decided not to play it. Wood, a former graduate student at Martino's school, first played the work in Boston's Jordan Hall last December and again in Sanders Theater in February. He made a profound impression with the work Monday night. ...listening to this piece is a dreamy, intense experience remote from anything the standard repertoire provides. Inside the swirling, labyrinthine geometries and dissonances of the work, Martino opposes ideas of mild, ethereal quality with dense, impenetrable complexes of notes that somehow heighten the lyricism on one plane even as they cancel it out on another. Some passages are heightened by contrasts of tone color when Wood plucks notes inside the piano. "Pianississimo" is a masterpiece of piano music, and will enter the repertory if a new work can still do that (a proposition I seriously doubt, so far is today's "serious" music life removed from creative currents). Wood's musical dedication and pianistic authority were plain to hear; he clearly should be better know than he is."
David Noble, QUINCY PATRIOT LEDGER, May, 1977
"In the midst of the festivities, a major work by one of Sessions' major pupils was played in a piano recital in Boston's Emmanuel Church. "Pianississimo", a half-hour long sonata by Donald Martino, who studied with Sessions (and other teachers) before coming to the New
England Conservatory and winning the Pulitzer Prize for music, was played by Edward Wood, a local pianist. "Pianississimo" is thought by several experts on the question to be the hardest piano piece ever written. ...Although strictly a 12-tone piece, it is a study in long, lyrical melodic lines that often linger tantalizingly around the fringes of traditional tonal harmony. ...The baby grand at Emmanuel Church is not the instrument to attempt all this on, and Wood had predictable problems simply making the piece sound, but he succeeded in showing Martino's lingering, shadowy lyricism in his performance. After intermission, Wood sat back down to the problematic piano and played the "Hammerklavier" sonata-- Beethoven's hardest by a long shot. Not only that, he played it at Beethoven's marked tempos, which everyone else in the world finds impossible to keep up to. For this enterprise the lightweight piano was in some ways a help-- "Sometimes it sounded like a hammerklavier'" one informed listener said after the performance. And yes, the lightness of the piano's tone did suggest the instruments of Beethoven's day in some passages of the sonata. More than that, Wood's
hyper speed performance was strangely revealing in some parts of the monumental sonata-- the strangely altered recapitulation of the first movement, for instance, or the odd trio section of the scherzo. The elaborate, decorated passages of the slow movement and the crazier parts of the concluding
fugue also were illuminated by Wood's approach. I'm glad I heard it."