I’ve been trying for maybe a more “genteel” word, but keep coming back to it… What I’m talking about is the composer, pianist and conductor Ketty Nez and her music. Born (1965) in Macedonia but quickly whisked away to the States, the whisking has continued through studies at Bryn Mawr, Curtis, Tokyo, UC Berkeley, Amsterdam and a couple passes through Paris, as well as teaching first at the University of Iowa and now Boston University. Ketty is a ferociously talented pianist (though currently working mostly in tandem with violinist Katie Wolfe), and also conductor of BU’s Time’s Arrow new music ensemble.
Yet first and foremost in my mind Ketty is a composer — and a mightily inventive and prolific one at that. It’s all the more remarkable given her heavy schedule of other work, and only possible because she borrows Gustav Mahler’s old trick of sealing herself away in the summer months, spending 8 to 12 hours a day focusing only on the composition at hand. And it shows in the sound… Ketty doesn’t do many four-minute quick-commission trifles. The music is expansive, elaborate and intricate, constantly abuzz in a rich stew of ideas and notes. …Lots of notes! Not many ideas are just presented on the plate all neatly packaged; something else, tiny filigree or other big idea, is always intruding, at work in another instrument or register. I mentioned “fecund” as the word that kept coming to mind; you could add “florid” to that mix as well. If it all sounds a little hothouse, that’s exactly what I’m getting at. These are restless pieces, but not in some angst-filled way; rather in a wonderful kind of swirling stream. They incorporate many different ideas at once or in quick succession, but somehow never feel eclectic.
Can you tell I really, really like Ketty’s work? And so might you, if you head over to her website and browse that link that says “hear compositions”. There Ketty offers up a large number of excellent recordings and performances of her music.