The night is perhaps the most favorite time for artists to be about stringing words or music together like necklaces of glittering gems—beautiful, expectant… ominous. Not long ago the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote that glorious elegy for his father, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” and for about three hundred years before that musicians—French, Italians and of course that famous Prussian, Frederic Chopin—have been writing studies and pieces evocative of the night and calling them “nocturnes”. And now another Frenchman, the fine young composer, Benjamin Broening has produced a breathtaking suite for pianos, entitled Recombinant Nocturnes, an exquisite, ever-evolving cycle of pieces that is at once dark gray and light as a feather, viscous and dotted with the Great Bear, Orion and a myriad of constellations; even starless and Bible-black, whether nothing flickers but the suggestion of unearthly spirits roaming as if on a modern Passover, reminiscent of that great day of deliverance.
The composition is flawless, attacking pitch and tone, and the timbre of the night with the awe-inspiring pianism of the Duo Runedako—pianists Ruth Neville and Daniel Koppelman—who are seamlessly bound to the Nocturnes as if by a common umbilicus. They play the pieces with great sensitivity, sublime musicianship and incredible interpretative ingenuity. The works entitled “Nocturne Fragments: Mercurial,” “Nocturne Fragments Remote” and very specially “…Fragments: flexible, mysterious, resonant” and “…Fragments: aggressive, bright, eventually giving way” are pieces that so capture the nature of the night body and spirit that there is an eerie sense that the time of day envelopes the room in which the music is played whilst the listener grapples and battles in a medieval manner, the spirits that roam the night. The composer does not make any attempt here to romanticize the subject, but rather unclothes her to reveal her truly mercurial character in all her naked glory.
Benjamin Broening’s composition truly captures the power of sound with a certain sense of timelessness. The sense of nuanced tonality and penchant for unearthing the hidden timbres of such a divine invention as night, in a nocturne—or a series of pieces—in a suite imitating that time of night when nothing stirs but the wind and the spirit-speak with whooshes and weeping; blithe laughter and gaiety and unexpurgated joy is his genius. On the other hand is the virtuosity, the ingenious expression and dynamic of the pianists who, playing together or separately, have carved an indelible interpretation of a piece eminently worthy of the CD that it is on. This is also one of the most sensitively recorded productions for which kudos must go to Innova Recordings and Philip Blackburn, for showing courage, dedication and sensitivity for the soul of the artist.