Irène Schweizer – FIRST CHOICE


For this writer, the piano playing of the great Irène Schweizer, that simultaneously angular and sweetly sensuous animal radiance corroborated by the lucid brain of an 88-key mathematician, is a major influence in terms of the way music should be conceived and played. And First Choice, a live recording made in the Kultur und Kongresszentrum Luzern (Switzerland) on October 8, 2005, is a further tribute to the pianist after the Gitta Gsell movie recently released on DVD by this same label. According to the liner notes, the ever-shy Schweizer was initially reluctant to accept the invitation to perform in this 1500-seat concert space, but the wonderful acoustic of the huge hall was the deciding factor in making her accept the challenge. She needn’t have been afraid. “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Piano Player” pokes fun at the pianist’s difficult situation in this world-famous, intimidating concert hall, but Schweizer’s Debussyesque whole tone runs and ostinato chordal spinning elicit enthusiastic applause from the audience. As she advances through her impromptu figurations, Schweizer sees and hears something that’s already precisely delineated and shaped; all she needs to arrive there is that monstrous technique developed over decades of friendship and collaboration with the likes of Henry Cow, Joëlle Léandre, Maggie Nicols, Han Bennink, Andrew Cyrille, Marilyn Crispell.. the list goes on. The long opening improvisation links the distant points of a complex harmonic network in a kind of luxurious primitivism, an exquisite, introspective analysis that opens up revealing progressions that could just as well appeal to fans of Gordon Beck and Keith Emerson (I’m not being ironic at all), after which the three minutes and fifty-seven seconds of the poignant, reflective “Ballad of The Sad Café” (also on Piano Solo Vol.1 on Intakt) should consign the peacock moves of Mr Jarrett to the trashcan once and for all. The rest is for you to discover, and don’t be surprised if you find yourselves smiling when it’s all over.


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