Album Review: Rivers and Streams by Lubomyr Melnyk
Great, Based on 8 Critics
The Guardian - 100 Based on rating 5/5
Lubomyr Melnyk is one of the world’s fastest yet little-known pianists and, since his 2013 album Corollaries finally opened him up to a new audience, the fact that he can play up to 19.5 notes per second has been touted as his defining quality. The effect is of iridescent notes that could be a thousand wind chimes, caught between turmoil and serenity. Melnyk’s titles are often fitting: Parasol sounds like sunshades spinning in the daylight, and Ripples in a Water Scene like ripples in a water scene; the crushingly sombre The Pool of Memories might well induce a pool of tears.
Music is full of stories of artists emerging from the wilderness or being discovered after years of obscurity. Such talk is particularly relevant when discussing 67-year-old Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk. He’s been making music since the 1970s and, while he may still be some way off being a recognised name, with the help of neo-classical label Erased Tapes he is gradually finding a wider audience.
Lubomyr Melnyk’s music was born of hunger — not dramatic, existential hunger, but actual, physical starvation. At the time, in the 1970s, Melnyk was a young Ukrainian-Canadian musician living in Paris, a budding pianist and an admirer of Terry Riley and John McLaughlin. Often, he says, he went days without eating, was destitute, lived in the streets sometimes.
Lubomyr Melnyk has devised his own technique of the "continuous piano" which, according to his website, allows him to play "the most number of notes in one hour," making him the "fastest pianist in the world. "In this way, Melnyk's compositions differ from his neo-classical counterparts; while many modern pianists draw on the longing of slowed tempos, the cascading keys on this album develop a richly textured intricacy. Indeed, Melnyk's quick fingers imbue his music with depth that, if explored, reveals harmonies within harmonies.
Ukrainian pianist and composer Lubomyr Melnyk has spent his career developing a method of performance called "continuous music." In pieces that stretch anywhere from 10 minutes to nearly an hour in length, Melnyk delivers a sustained flurry of high-speed arpeggiated notes. By holding down the sustain pedal, he allows tones to ring out indefinitely, creating droning ambience and phantom melodies. The pursuit of continuous music has brought Melnyk impressive chops—his website boasts that he is the fastest pianist in the world—but little in the way of critical recognition or financial reward.
Lubomyr Melnyk makes some big claims about himself. He says he invented his style of piano playing, which he calls 'continuous piano music' – a rolling flood of notes which eludes precise definition (even by Melnyk himself) but which he has called 'the very soul of the piano, a universe of beauty'. He also reckons this makes him the fastest piano player in the world.
Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk has gained widespread recognition as the originator of the Continuous Technique, and this latest release purports to be “the embodiment of his signature style”. The theme is certainly apt; there is a fluidity to his hypersonic playing that is evocative of water in both its tranquillity and its power. Opener Parasol is a staggeringly beautiful start.
It’s May in Brighton and all across the city new musical blood is hungering, hair slick and jeans tight as amplifiers hum and sweat cascades from the low ceilings above whilst 15,000 people hunt unceasingly for The Next Big Thing. But the best act at this year’s Great Escape Festival isn’t young nor hot nor even new but a 67 year old Ukrainian pianist playing in a church, his limbs a blur of poise and motion and the air a collective held breath of awe, of sheer rapt amazement at what can be achieved by just one man and a rack of ivory. There’s a similar impact playing through Rivers and Streams, Melnyk’s second album for Erased Tapes, for the first time - a stunned silence at the intensity and pace of these cascading arpeggios (19.