"Upon Entering a Painting", the title track of the disc, is an appropriately vivacious and interesting work to open with, albeit enigmatic at first. In it, McCabe is alluding to a Rothco Exhibition of 2008, and more specifically, to the 'inner life' or the artist's more vivid brush-strokes, approached from and retreating into a more sinuous, rather less frenetic mode of expression. [...]
"Two Scenes from 'Edward II'", "The French Court" and "The Barons", capture the imagination in a wholly different but just as worthy way. Written in 1994-95, these make a delightful pair of pieces for two pianos, arranged from McCabe's original score for ballet inspired by Christopher Marlowe and choreographed by David Bintley. This is music to dance to, and we get a healthy measure of a more whimsical, jazzy and even comedic side of the composer's personality. [...] I have often thought it to McCabe's credit that, even in 'simple' pieces such as "March of the Fool" for flute and piano, the music seems always calculated to communicate something of value and immediate appeal.
"Basse Danse" (1970) ... is a complex but always intriguing work which I found myself wanting to hear several times back to back, not so much in an attempt to make sense of it but instead to enjoy not making sense of it (if that makes sense).
McCabe's "Studies" balance musical considerations with a desire to explore a particular facet of piano technique. Here it is the ornate, highly individualized (sic.) treatment of architectural shapes and radiant colours that caught the composer's imagination, and in "Gaudi" McCabe shows his resourcefulness and attention to nuance. [...]
McCabe enjoys a rare flirtation with single-movement sonata form (in "Sonata" (Study No. 12, 'Homage to Tippett')). It works well in such terms, but arguably just as well in 'Study' terms, and of course it is both. [...] The Tippett connection is often clearly in view: passages of high drama shot through with unannounced bursts of lyricism, trills and clever employment of the entire keyboard.Mark Tanner, International Record Review, 4/1/2012
The collection here contains music for piano duet, two pianos and solo piano; the most important work is the title track: 'Upon Entering a Painting'... 'The inspiration of the piece' McCabe writes, 'was the kind of painting which, as you gaze at it, seems to draw the onlooker into the frame, indeed into the very paint itself. The specific trigger for the idea of the piece was the Rothko Exhibition at the Tate Modern in 2008 - Rothko has long been a favourite painter of mine, even though his creative world is very different from my own.'
In musical terms, what we experience is the laying-out of an initial idea, faintly discordant, spread across the keyboard, which is gradually explored - in much the same way as we might view a picture, slowing moving our gaze across the canvas before standing back and letting our imagination wander on the subject; this 16-17 minute work in one movement ranges over a variety of mood, always organic, until it finally comes to rest, the faint discords now coalescing into one indissoluble entity. It is a very important work, not merely in McCabe's output but in the duet repertoire...
In (the) final work (Sonata), Impressionism has no overt place in McCabe's invention, and we can experience this superb composer's thought-processes more freely - perhaps. Robert Matthew-Walker, Musical Opinion, 5/1/2012