...what a wonderful introduction it is to the composer's soundtracks, featuring solo piano recordings of themes composed for movies 1993 to 2003. Essentially Michael Nyman Unplugged, this is the composer stripped down to single piano, without the accompaniment of his ever-present Michael Nyman Band or string quartet.
Because Nyman composes his music at the piano, this recording presents a deconstruction of many of his famous themes, paring them down to the melodies that subsequently were transposed to orchestra. It's uncanny how the full expressions of these pieces are still so prominent on the piano alone, even when you have been accustomed to hearing the multi-part versions. But a good tune is a good tune whatever it's performed on, and a performance by the originator ensures that we get to hear exactly what he intended. And unlike Craig Armstrong's Piano Works, where the composer's piano solos were significantly altered for the album, the compositions here are all authentic originals. Kudos must also go to sound engineer Austin Ince who has produced an incredibly crisp recording whereby you pick up every tread of the pedal and tap of the hammer. For those who have experienced Michael Nyman live at the piano, this is a perfect reminder of how enthusiastically the composer plays. Minimalist? There's melodic and lyrical tunes a-plenty here.
The selection on the disc includes the ubiquitous ‘The Heart Asks Pleasure First’ from The Piano, as well as that soundtrack’s ‘Lost and Found’ and ‘All Important Things’ and three tracks from the playful Wonderland (‘Franklyn’, ‘Jack’ and ‘Debbie’). There's also the mournful ‘The Morrow’ and ‘The Departure’ from Gattaca, which are initially hard to imagine without the weeping strings, but work so well on the keyboard. ‘If’ and ‘Why’ from The Diary of Anne Frank are presented without vocals, while The Claim's ‘The Exchange’ is most welcome. The album is book-ended with ‘Diary Of Love’ from The End of the Affair and a reprise.
A sampler for those who want a taster of the composer's world, a companion piece to The Essential Michael Nyman, or just an elegant selection of piano work, it's the perfect opener to Nyman's new label, and I wait with bated breath for subsequent releases.Nick Joy, musicfromthemovies.com, 5/2/2005
There seem to be two Michael Nymans. One is dissonant and the other melodic; and this is definitely the latter. This disc contains a series of solo piano recordings played by the composer featuring music originally recorded for film soundtracks from 1993 to 2003. It includes his most famous film score The Piano but I was very pleasantly surprised by the entire album.Nick Bailey, Classic FM Magazine, 7/1/2005