Claudia Ulla Binder

September 20, 2000

Solo Piano
Unit Records UTR 4126

The alpine climate of certain parts of Switzerland must be very chilly. For while on the evidence of this release Zürich-resident Binder is a fine pianist, the improvisations she produces often go way beyond cool to freezing cold. And sometimes it seems as if a warm parka and an ice pick may be the best way to approach this CD.

A piano teacher with an involvement in both so-called New music as well as improvised sounds, Binder cites a 1980 stay at Woodstock’s Creative Music Studio as pivotal to her development. Yet one wonders who she listened to there. You would be hard pressed to think of any other student or teacher from that decades-long Improv cram school who plays with the same popsicle conception.

You can’t attribute it to Switzerland either, since Irène Schweizer, her countrywomen, has worked passion and humor into her pioneering piano improvisations for more than 30 years.

Perhaps it’s best not to concentrate on what Binder isn’t, but what she is — a formalist who seems to approach improvisation as a deadly serious task. Heavy-handed as this may seem, it’s conceivable that there is some jocularity here, such as on “…. Runde Mitternacht …”, translated as “Round Midnight”, her somber way of playing that composition could be a comment on the Monk tune. Of course, like a joke told at mathematicians’ convention involving funny integers, maybe you had to be in the studio to appreciate the humor.

Overall, then, it seems that the most interesting parts of SOLO PIANO come in “Tür und Tor” and “City Night Lines”, where Binder abandons the keyboard for the timbres that can be produced from the inside of the piano. The later is especially fascinating with spectral tones echoing in such a way that they almost sound complete in themselves.

It’s likely that an entire session centred around piano innards may have been more interesting than the glum keyboard exercises presented here. Binder has certainly evolved her own way of creating a piano record. It would just seem that few may be enticed to make the North Pole journey along with her.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. …etwas flatterhaft 2. Raumfahrtstudie 3. … ist die Frage 4. Schwimmen-zwei Vögel 5. : durchaus balladesk! 6. Honiglied 7. Commitment 8. Tür und Tor 9. Nachtigall beim Schattentanz 10. Kleines Nichts 11. Inclination 12. …. Runde Mitternacht … 13. City Night Lines

Personnel: Claudia Ulla Binder (piano)