The New Yorker describes Lisa Moore as the “queen of avant garde piano” but she’s the most down to earth sovereign imaginable. In a genre renowned for eccentric performers and unapproachable music Moore was calm, friendly and all about the music. And the music was good.
Her program for the Tura Scale Variable series was devised around works for singing pianist. Moore’s clean, smooth technique and transparent musicality spanned a range of intimate emotions, from the quietude of Philip Glass’ Metamorphosis I and IV to humour of Brett Dean’s Equality with its wild rumbling piano scales and Moore’s unrestrained bellowing “All men are bastards”.
Australian composer William Gardiner was present to introduce Little Room, a compelling theatrical piece about “Australia’s first refugees” – the Irish orphans sent to Australia during the great famine.  Electronically-produced sounds of sloshing of water and fragments of text formed a cocoon of sound with Moore at its centre reading poetry, accompanying herself on piano and playing a folk tune on a melodica.
Martin Bresnick’s Ishi’s Song delved into existential questions about cultural legacy and loss. A simple native-Indian melody was developed with the clarity and complexity of Bach. Chords clustered around the melody building into complex polyrhythms with Moore’s light, even touch bringing a twinkle to the high notes.
Moore and Martin Bresnick
Moore is a pianist, not a singer, as was obvious in Ted Hearne’s Intimacy and Resistance. She declaimed the text without vibrato over Hearne’s bluesy syncopated piano chords making the piece more Sprechstimme than ballad.
But her piano skills were beyond reproach. The centrepiece of the recital was Rzewski’s De Profundis, was a complicated weaving of text by Oscar Wilde with body percussion and complex piano writing. Moore howled, slapped her cheeks and delivered feverish pointillism from the piano in a display of impressive virtuosity. A whistled interlude provided thoughtful reflective space while her conversational approach brought intimacy to Wilde’s deeply hopeful words.
Despite the huge technical skill required to deliver a recital of this kind (Moore read the scores from an Ipad using a Bluetooth foot pedal to make page turns), the overall impression was of a musician of refreshing naturalness. Randy Newman’s rambling conversational I Think its Gonna Rain Today was a fitting conclusion to a recital of unadorned authenticity.
Come back soon Lisa Moore.