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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2000
After purchasing this CD I found myself playing it nonstop for some time. I was familiar with some of Nyman's other music and wanted more material to listen to, and this fit the bill perfectly. The piano concerto is largely taken from the songs he wrote for the movie "The Piano" cast into a 20th century concerto form. The performance is clear and well balanced. Some may find it a bit repeatitive and really lacking a continuous development of the themes, but those who appreciate minimalist music will enjoy the cd. MGV is based around driving rhythms throughout the piece, very similar to the music written in the Peter Greenway films for which Nyman is most famous. More minimalist than the concerto, I think this is the better of the two offerings (especially the first section). As a whole the two compositions complement each other very well, making it another great album from the Argo label.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2002
This album contains two pieces of music: first being the full piano concerto, based on <The Piano> soundtrack. The second is an orchestral music called MGV, which was written for the inauguration of the TGV Northern Europe Train Line. Opinions towards this album has been mixed, reflecting the divided opinions among classical listeners towards minimalist music in general. Again, like most minimalist music (especially Michael Nyman's work), you really cannot rely on reviewers' opinions alone. You must decide for yourself.
In my humble opinions, Nyman has successfully transformed the various sountracks in <The Piano> into one piano concerto. The level of technical skills required to play the Piano Concerto has been raised, obviously to accomodate the fact that a professional pianist (Kathryn Scott) rather than an amateur pianist/professional actress (Holly Hunter) was playing the piece. The emotional impact has not been compromised by this transformation, and the influence of Scottish folk tune is still very evident.
In the second piece, MGV, Nyman took the audience through an imaginery train journey, with emphasis on the sense of adventure, wonder and triumph. One can see in it Nyman's intention to celebrate human achievement and human triumph over odds.
On both counts, this album has successfully achieved what most minimalist music strives to achieve - an elation of human senses and starting the fire of human imaginations.
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on May 21, 2014
After hearing the delightfully heartfelt and free-form piano solo portions of the original “Piano” soundtrack, I was curious how the experience could actually be repeated as a concerto. I was even wondering what the point was since the basic compositions were already strong and sometimes complex. I don’t think I’m wrong to say that listeners tend to assume that a concerto made following the release of solo instrument pieces implies that the originals were either weak or not entirely planned. It even suggests a lack of confidence on the composer’s part, as if to say “well, I didn’t quite hit the sweet spot yet, so let’s try again.” Being a firm believer in the power of movie soundtracks, I’m in favor of the concept of expanding them, but you never know what you’re going to get in these cases.

As it turns out, my basic assertion was wrong this time. These songs retain the original melodies but build more around them, resulting in a fuller sound and at least as much pathos as the originals had. This is all assuming, of course, that you enjoy Nyman’s niche of music. Some call it minimalist and some call it New Age-like. I’m not sure either is accurate. If you hate both of those features, don’t buy this. If you DO like either or both, this one might be within your listening scope.

“The Beach” has a swaying quality (yes, like ocean waves, to go for the obvious cliché), and although the piano takes a back seat for some portions, the orchestral parts that are now there are methodical and appropriate. The horn sections in particular resemble Joe Hisaishi’s work – and I mean that in the best possible way. One even wonders if Hisaishi was influenced by this work.

“The Woods” does indeed evoke secrecy, passion, and yes, days full of storms and drear. The piano adaptation in this movement is a marvelous imitation of (or tribute to?) Rachmaninov; if you have ever listened to even one movement of a Rachmaninov piano concerto, it will be hard for you to miss the nod to him in this context. Since I enjoy that particular old master, I mention this as a high compliment.

“The Hut” has a barefooted fleetness that somehow blossoms. It would be equally fitting in a Jane Austen miniseries or a Pocahontas story. When it calms down at the 4-minute mark, you might be wondering what the point of the other 5 minutes of the movement is, but keep listening. There are some touching violin pleas and, again, some nice brass arranging as the piano takes a more center stage.

“The Release” is an echo of the previous movement, but almost hyper in its enthusiasm. The piano is practically in a footrace with the orchestra, even when the tempo reverts to Rachmaninov tendencies a second time. Thick chords and harmonies let it build to something resembling an army, not a polite little orchestra, but what an army it makes.

In pure editing terms, the movements sound seamless. That alone should be commended because even classical standards don’t always get this treatment.

In some ways, this form of the music – far from being redundant or repetitious – would have been MORE appropriate for a historical film. While the originals had a charming simplicity and startling insight, this music has texture (this isn’t so much a criticism of Nyman as an acknowledgement that there is only so much you can evoke on a solo instrument). It’s the kind of texture you expect in any BBC drama serial worth its salt.

I’m going to be honest: I just plain disliked the “MGV” pieces. That runs contrary to what many other reviews have said, I know, and that isn’t going to change my opinion. Though distinctly Nyman in sound, they seem like a marriage of Vaughan Williams, Barber, Britten, and Copland – and none of those names are personal favorites. It’s not the ensemble’s fault, to be sure…they huff and puff away at these, and the effort pays off. There is a nice building sound, but it’s just not for me. Both the strings and the brass are robust, rich, and driving, so I ought to have better things to say. Perhaps it’s the honking of a saxophone throughout, which is included in good spirit but can really distract and detract from the point of the pieces, in my opinion. This instrument also appears in the concerto, but you somehow don’t notice it as much.

If you enjoyed “The Piano” as a soundtrack, buy it for the concerto. If you prefer train motifs and “through music,” then buy it for the “MGV” music. If you don’t like either, then leave this one out altogether. Michael Nyman appears to have the same dividing effect on people as Enya, so the best way is for you to listen and judge for yourself. It's possible you will really love something on this album, but hate other Nymans works. The reverse is equally possible. I’m not going to call this album essential, but since it is so inexpensive these days, I bought it on a whim and thought it was a fair use of $2.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2006
I agree with the two previous reviewers that The Piano Concerto and MGV are great music to listen to any time. I also found myself playing the CD over and over. Two enthralling performances.

However, the version I own includes a second CD with short tracks from other Argo releases. (Listed above for listening.) I also played that one over and over again and finally began searching for CDs by those composers. It took forever to find works by the Fitkin brothers (?), but they were well worth the search.

The Piano Concerto and MGV are must haves for any fan of minimalism and especially of Nyman, but try to get the version with two disks. It will open your eyes to many more composers in the same genre.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon July 19, 2010
I would not have bought this CD - what I have is actually the recent reissue, on Michael Nyman's own label, Michael Nyman: MGV; The Piano Concerto - if it hadn't cost 2 euros. I am not very well inclined towards the kind of repetitive minimalism of which the champions are Glass, Reich and Adams in the US, and Glass' clone Michael Nyman in the UK. It is not the repetition I take exception with - as everybody, I enjoy Ravel's Bolero tremendously - it is the trite, predictable and sacchhrine harmonies that usually go with it. I'll leave it to musicologists to say if there is something inherent to repetition that necessitates those harmonic progressions for corny movies, or if its only, on the part of the composers, laziness and commercialism - but I do suspect it is the second option, as there is repetitive music WITHOUT the trite harmonies - just hear Ravel's Bolero again.

Anyway, going to the REAL store once in a while - provided there are some left close to where you live - can be a boon; your savings on the postage cost easily compensates for the two subway tickets, and bargains are steals. So, for two euros, what did I have to loose - except an hour of listening time, and some more in writing time?

It turns out that I enjoyed at least the first piece on the disc, MGV, more than I'd like to admit. Sure, it is harmonically very predictable and simplistic, and some passages sound like a soundtrack for Hollywood. But there is a relentless motoric exuberance, a fireworks of instrumental colors that I found quite uplifting, at least for one hearing.

A few facts: MGV - Musique à Grande Vitesse, High-Speed Music - was commissioned for the inauguration of the TGV's North European Line in 1993 in Lille - the TGV is the French High Speed Train, or Train of Great Velocity as it was dubbed when construction in Texas was being considered, and its North European line is the one leading to the Channel Tunnel and from there to London, and to Brussels and from there to Germany .It is a 25-minute piece - shorter than the time needed to reach London from Lille.

In Nyman's The Piano Concerto, the important word is "The": it is an elaboration in Concerto form from the music written by the composer for Jane Campion's movie "The Piano", so you might think of it as "Concerto The Piano". It was premiered on the same concert with MGV, so it is appropriate that the two works should be paired together on disc. That said, it displays less motoric energy (there are less than three minutes of it in the penultimate movement, The Hut, based on a Scottish popular song) and sparkling colors, and more trite and sentimental tunes and harmonies, sometimes embarrassingly so. Appalling - and there is over half an hour of it! - but quite what I expected from Nyman, while hoping NOT to encounter it. Have we really gone through five or six centuries of painstaking efforts from the composers of every generation to write music that was harmonically, rhythmically, melodically, instrumentally highly elaborate, each building on the achievements of all their predecessors, only to reach this result? A sad thought.

I haven't seen the Jane Campion movie, but this is a real disincentive. On the other hand, I might consider a trip to London. Maybe I can regain the half-hour lost on The Piano Concerto.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 10, 2009
For those who doesn't know, Nyman's piano concerto is a reworking of his film music for the movie "The Piano". The material is thus given a far more cohesive structure (and the piano part itself is largely refashioned), and the balance between piano and orchestra is also altered - the concerto uses a larger orchestra allowing the sound of the piano to be much more integrated into the orchestral texture. The work is continuous but divided into four sections, to some extent based on which moods the film music was supposed to represent. Does it work? Not really - the material is simply too undistinguished and cloyingly sentimental; this is heart-on-sleeve music in the wrong sense. At least Kathryn Stott and the RLPO play it for all its worth and manage to bring a certain sense of drama to it.

MGV Musique à Grande Vitesse was written for the inauguration of the TGV North-European line in France, and is on the whole a far more interesting work. The idea is apparently to describe - or rather, perhaps, capture the spirit of - a non-stop train journey (somewhat in the tradition of Honegger's famous piece, but on a larger scale). The abstract minimalist style is, of course, very well suited for that kind of thing, and the end result is quite spell-binding with chugging rhythms and quite varied, sweeping melodic fragments (ending in an unabashedly glorious last segment).

Performance are good in both works, and the sound quality, while well-balanced, is a little too close in the piano concerto, but works very well in MGV. All in all, I would recommend the disc for MGV (an excellent introduction to the composer's regular style, and one of his more effective works overall, as far as my knowledge of his oeuvre goes). The disc also comes with a CD of samples of contemporary (and cross-over) music from the Argo label (at least my copy did), which is a nice bonus and lets you hear, in particular, an excerpt from Paul Schoenfield's exhilarating Four Parables.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2007
This CD has two pieces by english composer Michael Nyman. The first is the score for the movie "The Piano". This is a well known piece, and its cliched, new age-y undertones made it not very good one in my opinion. The second is more promising: called MGV (french for Music at Great Speed), it was commisioned apparently for the unveiling of a high speed train in Europe, and this great piece really suggests of trains and railways.
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