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Music Review: Michael Nyman Band – Michael Nyman

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Michael Nyman is probably best known to the general public as the composer of the soundtrack to the acclaimed film The Piano (1993). Nyman had been composing and recording for years prior to The Piano, and the debut of the Michael Nyman Band – simply titled Michael Nyman, was originally released in 1981. The LP has been out of print for years, and mint-condition copies of it have been trading for big bucks in the collector’s market for a long time now. I have no idea why it has taken so long, but Michael Nyman has finally been released on CD. For one thing, the release proves that the album’s stellar reputation over the years was well-deserved. It also shows just how well these types of reissue projects can be done, if the people behind them care enough to do it right.

Mr. Nyman’s music employs a wide variety of stylistic approaches. Michael Nyman is at times soothing, adventurous, and always intriguing. While it is thoroughly enjoyable on its own terms, there is a depth to the compositions that adds a powerful element. The original vinyl release was broken up with five songs on side one, and the 21:09 “M-Work” filled the second side.

It was no mere happenstance that Michael Nyman was chosen to compose the soundtrack of The Piano, for he had been scoring films for years. One of the more celebrated directors he has worked with is Peter Greenaway. A great deal of the music on Michael Nyman comes from his work on the early films Greenaway directed. Then there is “In Re Don Giovanni,” which as the title indicates – references Mozart’s Don Giovanni. It is a curious deconstruction of the “Catalogue Aria” from Amadeus’ famous opera.

As previously mentioned, Michael Nyman contains a variety of different musical forms, but it is by no means a “difficult” listen. I know that some people are put off by the very idea of classical music, thinking that it is too demanding, and necessitates a great deal of knowledge to fully appreciate. Let me state categorically that this is not the case with Michael Nyman. Knowing some of the history and sources of the compositions is nice, but certainly not a requirement to fully enjoy this recording.

The CD has been issued on the aptly titled MN Records label, and is distributed by the Harmonia Mundi company in the United States. The packaging is noteworthy also. The digi-pak case is a tri-fold affair, and contains an informative booklet, along with reproductions of the two posters which accompanied the original LP release.

For those of us who have been curious about this album for years, but not quite willing to pay collector’s prices to hear it, the CD release of Michael Nyman is a welcome event. For those so inclined, MN Records has quite a number of other releases by the artist, and is worth a look.

I have been looking forward to the opportunity to hear this fine album for some time now. The reissue kicks off 2012 in style, and is a recording which should appeal to a wide variety of listeners. It is a very impressive album, both in the music, and in the packaging.

Michael Nyman is set for release on January 10, 2010.

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About Greg Barbrick