Tzenka Dianova: DeConstruction

18 October 2009 • Graham Reid,

Atoll ACD 309 • The Perilous Night (for prepared piano solo); First DeConstruction: The Perilous Night (for unpreparing piano and electronics); Portrait de Socrate (piano solo transcription); Le piège de Méduse(for paper-prepared piano); Gnossienne IV (simulated quarter-tone piano version); Bacchanale(transcribed for prepared piano duet with Sarah Watkins); Vexations (celesta version). Tzenka Dianova, piano, prepared piano, celesta

A fascinating and beautifully recorded journey through sound.

The words “contemporary classical music” probably strike as much fear into the hearts of innocent civilians as “free jazz”.

For some reason these terms equate to cacophony for many (sometimes, to be fair, that is the case)… but on this album where Dianova plays piano, prepared piano and celesta we might have to reconsider what “contemporary classical” means: after all the composers almost exclusively featured here — John Cage and Erik Satie — have both long since passed on.

So this is hardly “contemporary” anymore. It is however still provocative and humorous, and keeps you alert.

Bulgarian-born, Canada-based Dianova studied in Auckland for a number of years, which explains why this album of music by the American Cage and Frenchman Satie (as well as piece by Dianova herself) appears on the creditable New Zealand label Atoll (which also recently released the award-winning album Gung-Ho by trombonist David Bremner).

Satie’s Le piege de Meduse is a typically whimsical piece for prepared piano and is perhaps the easiest entry point for those nervous civilians, but from Cage’s gloomy opener (the percussive Perilous Night) to the duet with Sarah Watkins on his vigorously lively Bacchanale, then the 14 minute ambient dreamscape of Satie’s Vexations (which is like an eerie lullaby) at the end, this is a fascinating and beautifully recorded journey through sound.