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The composer Conlon Nancarrow, who died in 1997 at the age of 84, is regarded as an exceptional figure in the field of contemporary music. It is especially his compositions for player piano that made Nancarrow go down in history.

Apart from his central work "Studies for Player Piano", Nancarrow's œuvre can be classified in three groups of live instrumental compositions: the early works (ca. 1930-1947) – this period covers compositions such as "Septet" (1939) which was rediscovered only in 1990 and is now presented on this CD, or the cycle "Suite for Orchestra" composed in 1940 which is contained on the present CD as well.

Other instrumental works, written in parallel with further pieces for player piano, can be ascribed to the creative period from 1984 to ca. 1993, among them being, for example, "Three Movements for Chamber Orchestra" (1993). A handwritten note in the scores indicates that some of them are transcriptions which were created with the collaboration of Nancarrow's assistant. This practice signifies the transition to the composer's late creative period which is characterized by transcriptions of both his own works and works by other composers, compositions which were written primarily for the purpose of concert performances.

How far transcriptions can deviate from the original source is shown by the piece "Nancarrow Concerto" by Paul Usher who was guided by the 'spirit' of Nancarrow. It appears at the end of the CD programme as a shining example of the further creative development of Nancarrow's music.

production WDR 2004/2005 | co-production with WDR and Ensemble Modern


Conlon Nancarrow 
Suite for Orchestra
Studies for Player Piano No. 16, 20, 26, 32 and 44
Three Movements for Chamber Orchestra
Septet. Fragment
Paul Usher
Nancarrow Concerto for Pianola and Chamber Orchestra


Amy Briggs, Helena Bugallo, Ingrid Karlen, Amy Williams: piano / Rex Lawson: pianola / Ensemble Modern / conductor: Kasper de Roo / WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln / conductor: Stefan Asbury

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WER 67332
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