Album: opus spongebobicum
Author: Stephen Fruitman
Publication: sonomu (source)
Date: 10/09/2008

Frank Rothkamm has been an avant-garde pianist since his childhood in Germany. Now he is a bicoastal American with repetitive strain injury who also accepts commissions for commercials, video games and movie trailers.

I am unfamiliar with any of his previous work but am informed that it always has a conceptual framework. This is obvious here where, without cracking a smile, Rothkamm pays tribute to a Saturday morning cartoon favourite of the latest generation of toddlers, Spongebob Squarepants.

With all the seriousness in the world and making all kinds of gestures hinting at both classical styles from romanticism to modernism and great pianists from Horowitz to Richter, Rothkamm is playing for laffs. Playing very well indeed, for the joke would not work unless the teller knew what he was doing. Rothkamm´s "40 variations of the secret formula" behind the charcter are explicated further in the dense liner notes, yet another nod to the code of "serious" music - all that´s missing is that the notes appear in French and German as well as English, as is the custom.

There is of course a serious side, too - Rothkamm is toying with the idea of homo ludens, or "playful man". Grown-ups are directed and do work, children are blissfully aimless and just want to have fun - which is of greater value, and what kind of value? And to repeat, first and last Rothkamm is an excellent pianist who takes his comedy seriously. There are no squeals or bicycle wheels, just strong, intense and emotive playing.

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