Review: 'Augmented Piano: Solo for Duet' was thought-provoking but often perplexing

Canberra International Music Festival - Augmented Piano: Solo for Duet - Eve Egoyan, NGA Fairfax Theatre, Sunday May 12, 2.30pm.

Canadian pianist Eve Egoyan. Picture: Supplied

Canadian pianist Eve Egoyan. Picture: Supplied

This was a concert that I expected to enjoy as the opportunity to hear respected contemporary Canadian pianist, Eve Egoyan. I certainly found the performance thought-provoking, but more perplexing than exhilarating.

Thought and Desire, the opening piece by Linda Caitlin Smith, is based on the text of Shakespeare's Sonnet 45. This was a quiet, introspective piece, with Egoyan singing the lyrics softly, as if to herself, while playing the meditative piano part, shoes kicked off. The shedding of her costume throughout was an aspect of the performance that I couldn't quite reconcile with the music.

John Oswald's Homonymy saw the pianist face the audience in her tightly corseted dress, put on her Louis heel statement shoes, and move about the stage while a series of images was projected onto the large draped white fabric screen that cascaded onto the floor and rippled across it. The piano part, developed in response to the images, evolved as more and more additions to the paraphernalia used to "prepare" the piano were added. The costume and the baton/cane wielded by Egoyan raised speculation about her role - dominatrix or musical conductor? Egoyan's was certainly a commanding appearance, but the mixed motifs of twisted language and bizarre disconnected images in the sound art seemed to lack cohesion.

Similarly, the David Lynch √Čtudes, which corrupted and merged scenes from Lynch's visual catalogue into a surreal dreamscape, failed to achieve the anticipated dramatic climax. Surface Tension by Egoyana and David Rokeby (software) created an engaging set of unfolding interactive 3D visual worlds in which Egoyan's piano playing built a complex relationship.

Michael Snow's solo piano piece, written for Egoyan, stretched our minds to embrace a style of piano playing outside traditional ideas of tonality and form, aimed at bending sequences of notes into sound patterns that asserted dominance and then merged back into a relentless momentum. Using large gestures and crashing elbow clusters, Egoyan sculpted the sounds she summoned from the Yamaha Disklavier.

Duet for Solo Piano by Egoyan concluded the concert. Opening with sounds reminiscent of a Moog synthesiser, this extraordinary love song between the traditional instrument and the fantastical piano was meditative, exploratory and beautifully realised.