“The New Listener”-Rezension: Gordon Sherwood Piano Works, Vol. I

When a composer even takes on a life as a beggar in Paris in order to escape the general hustle and bustle of the music business and, on the other hand, to have enough time (and the little money he needs to survive) for his main goal, namely composing, then one can imagine that something very special is emerging: A person who is uncompromising in his compositions, too, who doesn’t look for performances, who throws his relationship with his wife to the wind and composes as a world traveller wherever he can, be it settled, at least for a while, or on the train on his knees.
The fact that the Russian pianist Masha Dimitrieva, after watching the legendary TV film about Sherwood ‘The Beggar of Paris’ (watch it on YouTube), not only found out his address but was prepared to make him and his music one of her mainstays – she even founded her own label in this context – prompted Sherwoood to write a piano concerto dedicated to her, which was premiered in 2004. This CD features some of his many piano compositions that have an immediate and immediate appeal.
Sherwood was supposed to pursue a career in the US military according to his father’s wishes, but he refused and became a musician instead, whose first symphony received great acclaim and definitively marked the course of his life: erratic to chaotic, at home in many countries – and their music – a restless wanderer who found his last place of residence and work in Bavaria, of all places, in the Herzogsägmühle. His music used everything that seemed worthwhile to him, from the blues of his American homeland to echoes of Indian or oriental music, of course polyphonically trained on masters like Bach.
Today Masha Dimitrieva is the best custodian of Sherwood’s music, all possibilities are at her disposal to make even the most intricate rhythmic boogie-woogie canons effortless playing, like all other pieces. The Steinway grand piano is the instrument for this, recorded directly but not annoyingly.
The detailed booklet provides exhaustive information about Sherwood and his compositions as well as about Masha Dimitrieva.
We can be curious about what discoveries of the music of this ingenious “beggar musician” still await us.
[Ulrich Hermann, January 2018]

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