It's an extraordinary honor for an artist to have a work written for them by a major composer, and I'm thrilled to present "Les contrastes Étude," Op. 93, No. 1 by Nimrod Borenstein.
The piece was directly inspired by the challenging topic I presented at the World Congress for Family Law & Children's Rights, which was the occasion for its world premiere. The title, "Contrasts," refers to the contradiction between childhood innocence and simplicity and the complex, sometimes stark realities many children face.
They say we should be careful what we wish for. A word of caution to fellow musicians: When a composer tells you that Boulez's and Ligeti's über-complex music "lacks complexity," be forewarned. "Les contrastes Étude" is a work of extraordinary complexity and craftsmanship. Nimrod told me it took over 40 work sessions and up to 100 hours to compose these two and a half minutes of music—and that’s only because he’s a prodigious, prolific composer with decades of experience. It then took dozens of hours for me to decode its extraordinarily complex polyrhythms. Music students learn 2 against 3, but imagine trying to count 4 against 5 against 6 against 7 all at once, with different off-beat accents in each hand! This breaks new ground in piano technique, eclipsing even the astonishing mental demands made by Ligeti's etudes.
Measures 48 and 49 of "Les contrastes Étude" are a case in point:
Even Ligeti's mind-bending etude "Désordre" is tame by comparison, although the difficulty is compounded by the extension of this technique throughout the entire piece. At least the hands are always in sync:
I can't think of another piece that requires such complete independence of the hands while counting in several tempos at once. A musical Enigma machine, "Les contrastes Étude" is mind boggling in its complexity (I nicknamed it the "Brain Damage Etude" while learning it!), yet it all comes together in music that can be enjoyed and appreciated on any level. This is master craftsmanship at work. If you're a professional musician or music theorist, it's well worth studying the score in detail. This is an example of finely constructed musical architecture that belies its episodic nature.
If this is your introduction to Borenstein’s music, it’s well worth exploring his catalog. His music is in the repertoire of many orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists worldwide and has been championed by prominent artists including Vladimir Ashkenazy and Dmitry Sitkovetsky, and performed everywhere from the Royal Opera House to Carnegie Hall. It’s precisely this unique combination of immediate appeal and underlying complexity that makes it so rewarding to discover.
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