My album, All Imperfect Things, got a nice review in Gramophone Magazine.
Over the years, Michael Nyman’s popular soundtrack to Jane Campion’s film The Piano has become a victim of its own success. At one point during the 1990s everybody seemed to be playing it, from aspiring young pianists to serious professionals. And with mixed results: very few performers managed to strike a balance between the music’s heart-on-sleeve romanticism and the minimalist techniques that underpinned it.
Until now, that is. Sally Whitwell comes fairly close to perfection in ‘All Imperfect Things’. On the surface we are presented with no-nonsense Nyman – 17 taut tracks played with crystal-clear articulation, rhythmic precision and dynamic thrust. In fact, a deeper understanding informs Whitwell’s performances, which is communicated as much through the less familiar pieces than the so-called show-stoppers. For example, Whitwell races through ‘The Heart Asks Pleasure First’ in order to show how effective ‘Silver-Fingered Fling’ can sound in the hands of an intelligent pianist. And in ‘Goodbye Mortie’ from The Diary of Anne Frank she uncovers something of a hidden gem from Nyman’s back catalogue.
It’s not just during the expressive moments that Whitwell shines. She pulls off a near-convincing performance of the tricky ‘Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds’, and in the opening of ‘Time Lapse’ makes each chord sound as if it were being dredged from the very depths of the instrument. The gloves are most definitely off here. The only let-down for Nyman fans will be the absence of a number of important pieces. One can understand why time constraints prevented Whitwell from including the Satie-inspired suite from Wonderland; but ‘Big My Secret’ from The Piano is a glaring omission, especially since its companion piece ‘The Embrace’ is included. Therein lies the disc’s only imperfection.