AMN Reviews: Brice Catherin – Number 3

Brice Catherin: Number 3 [pan y rosas pyr072]

Composer Brice Catherin’s new release contains two different versions of his composition Number 3—the first for solo piano, and the second for violin and chamber ensemble. Both were recorded live at St Francois church in Lausanne, Switzerland in May 2010.

The version for solo piano, energetically performed by Viva Sanchez-Morand, builds tension with a steady, rapid pulse running up and down the registers in tightly contained waves. Sanchez-Morand’s use of the pedal creates a constant undertow of sound that functions as a quasi-drone centering the piece and serving as a pivot for the work’s signature jittery movement up and down the keyboard. She maintains momentum throughout the performance’s fourteen-plus minutes—no small feat of physical stamina—until the gradual slowing with which the piece ends.

The version for violin and chamber orchestra, while recognizably akin to that for solo piano, is distinctively different from it nevertheless. Here the solo violin, played by Rachel Kolly D’Alba, conveys the nervous energy essential to the piece. The drone comes out in the accompanying instruments’ long-sustained tones, which are passed back and forth among the sections. The makeup of the ensemble is biased toward the lower register—it includes the unusual complement of four double basses in addition to tuba and bassoon—which provides something of a counterpart to the pedaled left hand of the piano version.

Although the large-scale compositional elements of Number 3 are audibly constant across both takes, the variety is in the details. And it’s nice to have these two performances in which that variety is allowed to flourish.

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