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Michael Hersch - The Vanishing Pavilions

Michael Hersch - the wreckage of flowers - Works for Violin

Label: Vanguard Classics / Musical Concepts (MC-101)
[2 CD Box Set]
Michael Hersch, piano
Release Date: 2007



"The evening felt downright historic. [Hersch] conjured volcanic gestures from the piano with astonishing virtuosity. Everything unfolds in open-ended, haiku-like eruptions, though built on ideas that recur throughout the 50 movements, from a lamenting, chantlike melody to passages of such speed and density you'd think the complete works of Franz Liszt were played simultaneously within three minutes. Overtly or covertly, The Vanishing Pavilions is about the destruction of shelter (both in fact and in concept) and life amid the absence of any certainty. And though the music is as deeply troubled as can be, its restless directness also commands listeners not to be paralyzed by existential futility."
— The Philadelphia Inquirer (from the premiere performance)

"... he has composed one of the most unusual pieces in memory: The Vanishing Pavilions for piano, a work in two "books," as Hersch describes them, and taking about two hours and twenty minutes to play. Apart from his composing, Hersch is a brilliant pianist, and there could be no better advocate of his own music. ... the work is barely fathomable: reflecting terror, agony, wonder. I hesitate to describe it. It seems both intensely personal and universal. It is ferocious, desperate, manic; titanic, daunting, world-containing; visionary, apocalyptic, inexorable. You sometimes want to look away from it; it can be terrible to contemplate. And yet you still heed it. You sense that the piece is both reacting to this world and striving for something beyond. I intend to live with The Vanishing Pavilions for a while longer. It has gotten under my skin, as it must; it has even disturbed my sleep. A first hearing takes a considerable amount of time, especially given the lives so many of us now lead. But one hearing is plainly insufficient. Michael Hersch has something to say, and he bears listening to."
— National Review (2007)

"Your deepest fears and most monumental anger seem to aired and examined -- in music that's an artistic expression of the highest sophistication, and never more so than in The Vanishing Pavilions. ... perhaps the most imposing work yet in an output that began imposingly more than a decade ago ..."
— The Philadelphia Inquirer (2007)

"This is music of raw, elemental gravity, which proceeds at its own unhurried pace. The music of each movement has an immediate, visceral impact; it sounds like it springs from, and speaks to, some deep, primordial place, unmediated by any system or even the niceties of compositional correctness. The variety that Hersch's tonal and gestural palette brings to each movement, as well as the music's restless, unpredictable rhythmic energy, commands the listener's attention. Hersch's performance is stunning in its vitality and virtuosity."

"Hersch's daring and personal musical language displays a magnificent spectrum of colors and textures right from the start. Concentrated listening is a necessity for the audience and since this is a work of such gigantic proportions, it is no journey for the weak-minded. The composer performs his own work on this release and does so with outstanding commitment and virtuosity, which only adds to the qualities of this fascinating recording."
— Muso Magazine

"This is an absolutely huge work that, despite its size, steadfastly refuses to sprawl.  There is an urgency and terseness to Michael Hersch's writing that retains interest from first to last.  The technical demands are vast.  This is disquieting music, to be sure.  It holds its spell not because it offers windows of hope but because it forces us to examine ourselves as we are now."
— Fanfare Magazine

"His pianistic technique is seemingly limitless and his expressive resources vast."
— (2008)