English/Australian composer Julian Cochran is the subject of this week's Consonant Classical Challenge. Cochran is a fairly young artist (b. 1974). He's a tremendously talented pianist, and his skill at the keyboard has shaped his compositional career.
Like Liszt, Cochran can improvise at the keyboard music of great technical complexity. And like Chopin, most of Cochran's catalog consists of works for solo piano, or ensembles featuring a piano.
Cochran's harmonies sound inspired by the music of the Post-Romanticists. The textures are often thick, with dissonances often resolving in step-wise motion. Many of Cochran's solo piano compositions are short, single-movement pieces, that build on forms of the past. He's written mazurkas, programmatic suites, and a set of Romanian Dances.
His Valse is fairly typical of Cochran's style. Although the form and melody are clear, this is not piano music for beginners.
Cochran may be steeped in the classical traditions of the past, but he's definitely a child of the late 20th Century. His English Folk Dance is a charming little work that was premiered in recorded form. As pop artists have done since the 1960's Cochran played every instrument in the ensemble and the tracks were mixed together. An usual way to orchestrate a work, but an effective one. Although the music is somewhat traditional in sound (as befitting a "folk" song), the decidedly non-traditional combination of instruments and sounds makes it anything but.
Artemis is a more conventionally orchestrated chamber work for violin, oboe, and piano. Cochran writes effectively for all three instruments, and manages to create a very open-sounding, yet atmospheric work.
For almost four decades, attempts have been made to integrate the electric guitar into a classical context. Results have mostly been unsuccessful, with the results mixing like oil and water. In Electric Guitar and Orchestra, Cochran effectively combines rock's iconic instrument with an orchestra. This elegiac work uses playing techniques developed by rock guitarists, but in an decidedly controlled and well, classical, manner. The result is music that is completely idiomatic to the instrument, fully integrated into the language of classical music.
Julian Cochran writes in a somewhat old-fashioned style, but his voice is original. And that originality gives his music integrity and substance. Superficially, his piano pieces may sound like Liszt, but if you listen carefully, it's clear they're not. Cochran's compositional style is distinctive and recognizable. The seamless, flowing nature of his music probably stems from his facility at improvisation. At the very least, it provides a spark of spontaneity.
It's a shame there's not more recorded material of Cochran's music. I'm curious to hear what his orchestral works sound like.
Julian Cochran: Extracts from Romanian Dances, Animation Suite and Mazurkas