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Anton Batagov: Big My Secret (Live)

review big my piano x1 cong

Batagov is a Russian pianist and post-minimalist composer.

Some piece on the internet said of him: “The post-Cagean philosophy of Batagov’s projects eliminates any boundaries between ‘performance’ and ‘composition’ by viewing all existing musical practices, from ancient rituals to rock and pop culture and advanced computer technologies, as potential elements of performance and composition.”

Whatever it means, there’s none of that here. On this covers album (by which we mean he’s not playing his own work) there is Bach, Rameau, Nyman and Mozart; the Nyman is Michael Laurence, composer of minimalist music, whose Big My Secret from the film The Piano provides the title. They’re mostly all short pieces.

It’s a double CD and the first CD is the “classical side”. He’s a jaunty pianist and much of it sounds as if should be played on a harpsichord; he plays each note clearly and there is little sustain, so it’s perhaps the crispness that suggests the other instrument. It’s calming and traditional classical piano.

Side two is (mostly) the modern music, and mostly from film. The opener is Fly Drive from the film Carrington (about the life of the English painter Dora Carrington) and it’s jaunty, with the air of a Scottish reel.

The slower The Attraction of the Pedalling Ankle (from The Piano) follows — the majority of CD2 appears to be from The Piano — and it’s a warmer and more intricate piece.
Chasing Sheep Is Best Left to Shepherds from The Draughtsman’s Contract is immediately familiar, though whether from its original prelude to act III, scene II of Henry Purcell’s opera King Arthur or because the Pet Shop Boys used it in Love Is a Bourgeois Construct depends on your musical heritage. CD2 closes with some Mozart.

This is not something you often say about classical piano recording but this sounds like a fun gig: a classical first half and a second half more rooted in pop music, proving that minimalism can be fun.

The whole package is pretty cool, come to that: military grade crispness in the playing, and a rock album style sleeve. Well worth the purchase price.

Out on Melodiya, MEL CD 10 02572.


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