Kate Moore: Dances and Canons
Composer Kate Moore and pianist Saskia Lankhoorn share bonds that go beyond their debut ECM recording Dances and Canons. They were both born in 1979, met in 2003 at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague, and currently call the Netherlands home. And to further strengthen Moore's Dutch connection, Louis Andriessen is among those with whom she's studied, and when Lankhoorn co-founded Ensemble Klang, she selected Moore as one of the first composers whose material the new music outfit performed.
A multiple award-winning composer, Moore has seen her music presented at Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, and the Sydney Opera House, as well as at the Bang on a Can Marathon and Canberra International Chamber Music Festival. For her part, the Dutch virtuoso Lankhoorn meets the challenge of rendering Moore's vision into pianistic form. Also an award-winner, Lankhoorn performs with the renowned Asko|Schönberg ensemble and has premiered new works with X88, her piano duo with Vicky Chow.
Moore, however, wasn't born in Holland but in England and grew up in Australia, and it's this latter detail that's been cited as significant in the way the country's sprawling landscapes work their way into her compositions. The layers of swirling patterns and shifting blocks of sound that surface within a given piece could be seen as a natural outgrowth of that early exposure to Australian vistas. Still, a great disservice would be done to Moore's music if it were to be broached so reductively; in drawing upon a vast storehouse of experiences, she creates music of architectural complexity, structural force, and multi-dimensionality that, especially when brought into being by someone with Lankhoorn's ability, can be dazzling.
Dances and Canons is nicely framed by two variations of “Spin Bird,” a 2008 setting whose hypnotic lilting patterns bring into immediate focus the emphasis on texture that so strongly infuses Moore's writing. And despite the temporal distance separating them, it's easy to hear an echo of Schubert in Moore's setting. Composed in 2000, “Stories For Ocean Shells” is as hypnotic as the opener (if rather more melancholy in tone), though in this case the dream-like effect is generated by interlocking patterns of spidery design.
A parallel also could be drawn between Moore and Philip Glass when layers of rippling patterns inaugurate 2010's “The Body is an Ear,” though it would be misguided to affix the classical minimalist label to her. Inspired by the writings of Sufi philosopher Hazrat Inyat Khan, the two-piano piece again highlights the textural dimension of Moore's music. Individual patterns become larger clusters that come at the listener in waves, and the music builds dramatically during one moment and scales back to a whisper in the next.
One wouldn't describe Moore's music as frenzied, generally speaking, though 2003's “Joy” (the one piece of the album's eight that most clearly hints at an Andriessen influence) does include aggressive passages. The album's densest work, however, is “Sensitive Spot,” whose production involved Lankhoorn recording staccato patterns over and over to generate a rippling, reverberant mass. The loveliest is “Canon,” a long-form, four-piano exploration of cadence and the range of emotional effects that such an exploration can produce. The setting's hypnotic character is intensified when multiple patterns chime incessantly at different pitches, and, despite the jarring impact of an abrupt ending, Lankhoorn demonstrates great sensitivity in her handling of tempo and dynamics.Dances and Canons provides a thoroughly satisfying sixty-eight-minute introduction to and overview of Moore's work, and the recording's effectiveness is bolstered by its mix of short and long pieces, with track times extending from three minutes (“Spin Bird”) to sixteen (“Canon”). That Lankhoorn receives equal billing on the release is also fitting, given the considerable technical challenges Moore's material poses to the pianist.