Jeroen van Veen – Preisner: Piano Music

Zbigniew Preisner and Jeroen van Veen

" On an artistic and technical level it truly is a dream come true. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Dutch pianist Jeroen van Veen name will always be used in relation to his brilliant performances and recordings of the minimalist composition Canto Ostinato, written by Simeon ten Holt. When you listen to his records and performances of this hypnotic minimalism piece, you get the distinctive feeling they are meant for each other. Notable recordings, all released by Brilliant Classics, also include a collection of various minimal pieces, some of his own compositions and the composers series (Part, Nyman, Glass, Adams, Richter...), which continues with the brand new Zbigniew Preisner release. The first disc focuses on the complete Preisner/Leszek Możdżer album 10 Easy Pieces for Piano (10 Łatwych Utworów na Fortepian), while the second disc explores the film music of Preisner.

10 Easy Pieces for Piano was born out the desire of Preisner to write music that would give pianist Leszek Możdżer more freedom to improvise, whereas he was restricted to a certain extent when performing pieces for his film music. Personally, I have been fond of all Możdżer collaborations with Preisner, other composers and musicians and his own compositions, and I hold him in such high regards. The recording and interpretation by Jeroen van Veen is one of highs and, unfortunately, more lows, which most importantly derives from the intent of the original album.

The website of the record label states: ’However only one recording has been made, not widely available, and this new Brilliant Classics recording will introduce many listeners to the uniquely haunting and inspiring soundworld of Preisner.’

I cannot argue with the availability issue, but usually a re-release is the most obvious solution to such a problem. A new recording, without Możdżer, would lose a great deal of its identity and original purpose, which is exactly what happens when Jeroen van Veen gives it a whole new treatment. It’s excruciatingly painful that I also have such high esteem of Van Veen’ career, but I generally found the new recording inferior to the original and really missed the idiosyncratic sound of Możdżer.

If I do attempt to set my primary concern aside, his nuanced performances are absolutely brilliant and offer everything you could hope for. He basically compliments each individual piece by blending it with his own minimalist ingredients. which offers different, but refreshing new insights. It’s evident in his piano textures, expressive shaping of each melody and, perhaps most importantly, modulations that ensure a greater sense of melancholia. On an artistic and technical level it truly is a dream come true.

To See More is an example of a track where Van Veen decides to reduce the tempo significantly, by which he largely omits the sheer amount of energetic flow and playfulness, and chooses a more dry and mature approach. A Tune Today originally sounded like a charming dance, with a typically quirky and light touch by Możdżer that is largely lost in the re-interpretation.

The second disc is a completely different story with a treatment of the film music of Preisner. Even though there are still some tracks that were originally performed by Możdżer, the previous argument cannot be applied here. Van Veen treats each individual piece in a similar fashion as 10 Easy Pieces for Piano, yet here the result is technically, artistically and emotionally perfect. I must say, originally I was a bit disappointed by the predictable selections, which include some well-known pieces of music, but the performances are, as expected, straightforward spectacular.

Some of the selections that, beyond the ’van Veen’ touch, deviate the most in terms of instrumentation, such as some moments of operatic grandeur from La Double Vie de Véronique and Trois Couleurs Bleu, are quite ingenious.

Of all selections, I was the most curious about how the pianist would treat the iconic piano notes present in Dekalog VI and Trois Couleurs Rouge ( Do Not Take Another Man’s Wife II). In their new versions, minus the breathtaking voice of Elżbieta Towarnicka, there is a sense of slower, emotional reflection and a light breeze in the performances, that makes them the actual highlight of the entire disc.

A great deal of Preisner’s music owes a significant amount of its strength due to his idiosyncratic touch (the musical colors, techniques and method of recording), and I rarely felt like I missed this in their new interpretations., except for the two Bolero pieces from Trois Couleurs Rouge. The level of passion and intimacy of orchestral elements, along with the idiosyncratic sound, can be difficult to transcribe for piano only, let alone give them a fresh treatment in terms of performance. I suspect it’s more a matter of taste and accepting that not every composition works well when transcribed for piano only because Van Veen’s performance on its own is unquestionably mesmerizing.

Judging the entire 2 disc release on technical and creative musical grounds lead me to the conclusion that this is so acute and brilliant, but unlike the film music performances, the 10 Easy Pieces for Piano make for such a complicated listen. Overall, the music performances by van Veen exceed all expectations and are once again prove of the fact that he is still one of the most important performers of piano (minimalist) music working today.

Disc 1
1 – 10 Easy Pieces for Piano: I. To See More
2 – 10 Easy Pieces for Piano: II. The Art of Flying
3 – 10 Easy Pieces for Piano: III. A Good Morning Melody
4 – 10 Easy Pieces for Piano: IV. Meditation
5 – 10 Easy Pieces for Piano: V. Talking to Myself
6 – 10 Easy Pieces for Piano: VI. About Passing
7 – 10 Easy Pieces for Piano: VII. Farewell
8 – 10 Easy Pieces for Piano: VIII. A Tune a Day
9 – 10 Easy Pieces for Piano: IX. Greetings from Pamalican
10 – 10 Easy Pieces for Piano: X. A Good Night Melody

Disc 2
11 – La Double vie de Véronique: I. Marionettes
12 – Aberdeen
13 – Damage: I. Main Title
14 – Décalogue VI, tu ne seras pas luxurieux: I. Pt. 1
15 – Décalogue VI, tu ne seras pas luxurieux: II. Pt. 2
16 – Décalogue VI, tu ne seras pas luxurieux: III. Pt. 3
17 – Décalogue VI, tu ne seras pas luxurieux: IV. Pt. 4
18 – Décalogue IX, tu ne convoiteras pas la femme d’autrui: III. Pt. 3
19 – Décalogue IX, tu ne convoiteras pas la femme d’autrui: XIII. Pt. 13
20 – La Double vie de Véronique, marionettes: I. Tu viendras
21 – La Double vie de Véronique, Marionettes: II. Van den Dudenmayer. Concerto in E Minor
22 – Fairytale, a True Story: I. Fairytale
23 – Fairytale, a True Story: II. The Coming of the Queen
24 – The Secret Garden: I. Main Title
25 – The Secret Garden: II. Winter Light
26 – Trois couleurs Blanc: I. The End
27 – Trois couleurs Blanc: II. Morning at the Hotel
28 – Trois couleurs Bleu: I. Olivier’s Theme
29 – Trois couleurs Bleu: II. Song for the Unification of Europe
30 – Trois couleurs Bleu: III. Van Den Budenmayer Funeral Music
31 – Trois couleurs Bleu: IV. The Battle of Carnival and Lent II
32 – Trois couleurs Bleu: V. Second Flute
33 – Trois couleurs Bleu: VI. A Chat in the Undergound
34 – Trois couleurs Bleu: VII. Home at Last
35 – Trois couleurs Bleu: VIII. Don’t Fall Asleep
36 – Trois couleurs Rouge: I. Fashion Show I
37 – Trois couleurs Rouge: II. Finale
38 – Trois couleurs Rouge: III. Do not Take Another Man’s Wife I

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(total of 1 votes - average 4/5)

Released by

Brilliant Classics (regular release 2018)