Internationally recognized Australian composer and concert pianist Julian Cochran (b. Cambridge, England 1974) is setting precedents in concert halls across the globe with his piano solo concert repertoire.
Cochran's newly issued album, Extracts from Romanian Dances, Animation Suite and Mazurkas, should hold an honored place in the library of every piano enthusiast. Cochran presents magnificent virtuosity performing these original piano works, each imaginatively constructed with delightful themes influenced by Eastern European culture and folk music, draped in the colors of Balakirev, Liszt, Prokofiev, and Ravel.
Cochran's composition flawlessly balances theme and form, rhythm and harmony. The mathematical perfection of his work reminds one of Cochran's original college emphases in mathematics and computer science. The realms of mathematic and pure logic exist, for him, as a natural and unaware part of his compositional process.
While acknowledging the influence of this discipline on his music, Cochran observes, "No one thinks about the basis of sound, I think, when composing; in the sense that a tennis player doesn't think about the wind friction over the ball."
"The relationship between composing and mathematics is that of temperament rather than intellect. You are thinking abstractly and applying logic ... that perhaps requires a certain kind of temperament, perhaps a love of the most direct and elegant solutions of logic .... You certainly must be able to think clearly to be a composer because a lot of modeling of ideas has to be held within the mind at once" (http://www.gramilano.com, September 2012).
Coupled with the mathematical perfection of form and harmony, Cochran's music is infused with his admiration for Eastern European language, folk music and culture.
"I fell in love with the Russian language, simply the sound of the language, and many things followed from that," says Cochran. "Writing classical music from the perspective of folk music places greater emphasis on melody and less emphasis on ideas that are not entirely clear to the audience."
Cochran's Russian Toccata (1996) brings together Russian folk music with the rhythmic devices of twentieth century Russian composers. A rhythmic and percussive motivic section is perfectly balanced with a contrasting, silken lyrical line.
Journeying through the album, Cochran's Romanian Dances No. 2, No.3 and No.4 are perfectly crafted musical gems resonating with the sounds of Eastern European folk music, the exotic and harp-like tapestries of the hammered dulcimer, and the inflections of the Russian language. All of these dances utilize fascinating rhythmic themes and the delightful exoticism of one of Cochran's signature modal idioms, the common minor scale with a raised fourth degree.
Following Cochran's internationally recognized first Mazurka (available on his second album, Cochran Piano Works), the composer's exquisitely crafted Mazurkas No.2 and No.3 are at once reflective and dauntingly beautiful. Mazurka No. 2 captivates the listener with a majestic display of power and force, inexorably carrying the unsuspecting listener to the climactic finale. Mazurka No.3, laced with daring and tempting contrasts of melodic color, lures the imagination into an exotic experience of indescribable and lurid dance.
Transparent, mystifying and modest, Cochran's Prelude No. 2 (from his collection of eight) provides a gentle counterpoint to the vivid mazurkas. This prelude also stands in contrast to his later preludes, which are weightier and complex (Preludes No.7 and 8 are recorded in Cochran Piano Works).
Cochran's Animation Suite, a collection of four pieces, sources two more works on this CD. Conceived as "capricious and evocative of childhood," these vignettes have become popular in concert halls. "Tin Sentinel" delightfully portrays a toy soldier as he goes about his quotidian routine, while "Wooden Dolls" tells the story of five Russian dolls engaged in animated dialogue.
Maelstrom 1 closes this album with an impressionistic tone poem depicting a mighty typhoon rising from within the ocean. Cochran wildly manipulates whole tone scales into a raging storm that engulfs all in its path. The music grows, intensifies and then diminishes to the calm sea from which it came.
Extracts from Romanian Dances, Animation Suite and Mazurkas presents some of the most delightful, captivating and intelligent piano work of our time. Cochran's piano literature is deservedly growing in popularity and is widely recognized, performed and admired by the leading concert pianists of our time.
Returning to these pieces again and again, one finds oneself led deeper and deeper into Cochran's captivating and dramatic soundscape, expressed in his unique, personal and evocative musical idiom.
You can buy the album at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/JulianCochran
Written by David Sawtelle (edited by Elise Winters)