In the last couple years, artists, musicians and writers have turned to “crowdfunding,” that is, using the Internet to aggregate lots of small donations to fund their work. The Russian-born, New York-based pianist Vassily Primakov represents the latest entrant in the classical world with his collection of Rachmaninoff Preludes and other pieces.
To help fund his recording, Primakov and his label, Bridge Records, used Kickstarter, the largest of several start-ups that act as matchmakers between donors and projects. People could donate any amount of money to Primakov's album and get perks in return. Giving $100 would score you three of his CDs along with a personalized thank you message. For $3,000 or more, Primakov would play a one-hour concert at a location in the New York area for up to 35 of your friends. To date, the pianist has raised $3,745, surpassing a modest goal of $3,000 (representatives at Bridge said that the recording required additional funding to cover mastering and post-production costs).
This capitalist venture somehow suits a pianist who was born in the Soviet Union in 1979 and entered Moscow's Central Special Music School just as the Iron Curtain fell nearly a dozen years later. At age 17 Primakov moved to New York and enrolled at Juilliard, where he studied with Jerome Lowenthal. During that time he made his local debut at Alice Tully Hall, performing Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto to enthusiastic reviews. Other honors followed: second prize at the Cleveland Competition, a semi-finalist spot at the Van Cliburn, and a signing with Bridge.
Somewhat paradoxically, Primakov’s performances are steeped in the Russian tradition of the old school, with plenty of color and a stress on melody. In a group of ten Rachmaninoff Preludes, the bolder pieces are powerfully wrought, but never bombastic; the more introspective ones are sensitive, but never sentimental. In the Corelli Variations, Primakov’s playing is well attuned to the composer's flights of romantic rhetoric and fantasy, while in a pair of the Morceaux de fantaisies, the pianist skillfully highlights the contrapuntal intricacies.
Vassily Primakov, piano
Rachmaninoff: Preludes; Elégie; Variations on a Theme by Corelli
Available at Arkivmusic.com
Another example of an artist taking a novel approach to recording methods is the composer Tristan Perich. His 1-Bit Symphony is Q2's Album of the Week.
Tristan Perich’s 1-Bit Symphony is one of those releases that requires a double-purchase. You could simply download the work, but that would take away from the fun of its physical packaging: The five-movement work is entirely contained on a single microchip in a CD jewel box, which also serves as the live player for the work that comes complete with instructions. If there’s $250 burning a hole in your pocket, you can even shell out for a signed and numbered edition of the work that comes with a silkscreen of the source code and schematic for the work.
1-Bit Symphony’s electrical pulses are not for everyone, but it is a groundbreaking work for the increasingly plugged-in world of classical music. Perich has a long-held fascination with the balance of both traditional (re: acoustic) and modern (re: digital) ways of making sound, and while many works, such as the insouciantly titled qsqsqsqsqqqqqqqqq, combine both mediums, 1-Bit Symphony is entirely courtesy of the latter.
It’s surprising, then, how human—and, given the symphonic form, how lush—this machine can sound. Perich’s use of repetition on a mathematical or scientific level of precision draws the obvious comparisons to Philip Glass and Steve Reich. However, one can also draw out echoes of Ligeti circa his piano Études amid the Gen X and Y nostalgia for early Atari games. It’s not the most hummable music, but thanks to Perich’s infectious glee for the art of listening, it’s also music designed to stick to your gray matter long after the final notes.
Available at Arkivmusic.com