These pieces are very different from each other, as Alwynne Pritchard (b.1968) discusses in an illuminating taped interview with Ian Pace, which introduces her own commentaries on the works. Her prevailing mood and sound vocabulary is astringent, never music to ‘wallow’ in for old-style sensual satisfaction. Pritchard has worked as a singer and dancer too, and she questions all received wisdoms and modernist orthodoxies. She confesses to have become more tolerant of diversity in recent years, and indeed relishes the fact that the Western musicians she finds most interesting ‘enter a dialogue with what’s around them’ and express themselves in vastly diverse ways.
Spring is a one-minute pianistic flourish and also an introduction to Ian Pace’s virtuosity. His other solo contributions are Der Zwerg (after Schubert’s dwarf), drawing upon Pritchard’s earlier compositions, and to finish, the CD’s title work Invisible Cities, the most substantial work in this programme. The piano quintet is rather bare (brittle, says Pritchard), developed from a piece for children to play in the Schubert Ensemble’s Chamber Music 2000 project. Matrix has some thoroughly alarming sounds for electric violin, and can be played in any of ‘a vast number of manifestations – through – eight spokes of a maze’. Nostos Ou Topos for guitar has optional routes and is given in two versions, dry, but they hold attention – you want to know what will come next, and when; there is plenty of ‘air’, i.e. pregnant pauses, in Pritchard’s uncluttered music.
The Luckless Angel is quite scary, as is Kit, (possibly) for children, in which Alan Thomas makes eerie sounds with electric guitar and Alwynne Pritchard’s own voice erupts with ‘cruel humour’ in whispers and dramatic, though ‘anti-expressive’, recitation of ‘mathematical, scientific or instructive texts’ as if in a schoolroom.
Pritchard seems fascinated by games and mazes; you can be assured that you are purchasing a unique performance of Invisible Cities, which offer several possible routes between the first and last words of a sentence by Italo Calvino. The pianist has to juggle the intermediate pages at choice but according to set rules; this exemplifies the role of performer as co-collaborator. One is not expected to understand why notes and gestures occur as and when they do; Pritchard composes from moment to moment, never filling a preconceived mould, seeking an open approach to listening, raising more questions than providing answers.
These will quickly give you a better idea of this composer, who has a mind and voice of her own, than my words can assist. The performances, recorded in vivid sound, presumably in association with the composer, are persuasive and this is an intriguing release.