Broadway is closed; Disneyland is closed; sports are on hiatus, and movie premieres are delayed. What will we do for our entertainment? That’s obvious ~ music is the answer! Music gets us through our toughest times, and has the power to soothe the savage breast. This season our Spring Music Preview is more than just a preview; it gives us something decent to look forward to beyond Netflix and canned soup.
We’re only eleven days away from Piano Day 2020 (March 28), so it’s no surprise that half of our spring slate in this category is comprised of piano albums. Branching out, we’ll also be introduced to new sets centered around brass, cello, and Ondes Martenot; a little film music; and even some beats.
Our cover image is taken from the cover of Carin Berger’s fine children’s book Finding Spring, a perfect gift for the child in everyone!
Rich’s Pick: Sophie Hutchings ~ Scattered on the Wind (Mercury KX, April 17)
We’ve been fans of Sophie Hutchings since Becalmed appeared a decade ago, and can still recall our amazement that the Australian artist’s debut album started with an 11 1/2 minute track. Since then, Hutchings has gone from strength to strength, building her fan base through talent and hard work. Scattered on the Wind continues her winning streak, pairing piano with strings and sopranos for a work that looks forward and back while reflecting on nature and “surrendering to the unknown.”
Sylvain Chauveau contemplates Life Without Machines with a series of piano miniatures that were inspired by Barnett Newman’s abstract painting series The Stations of the Cross. These compositions are performed by French pianist Melaine Dalibert (flau, April 17). Max de Wardener returns to Village Green with the self-explanatory Music for Detuned Pianos, performed by Kit Downes; the album reflects a stylistic shift from last year’s album and EP (March 20). Levi Patel also adopts a more acoustic timbre on A Shifting Lightness, trading a foray into post-rock for a return to piano and strings. The new album was composed in isolation but performed with friends (March 20).
Koki Nakano makes a splendid first impression with the video Bloomer, the first taste of Pre-Choreographed. Thanks to director Benjamin Seroussi, we’re not only looking forward to the full album, but to the other upcoming videos. The second video (for track “Near-Perfect Synchonisation”) will be made public this Friday (No Format, April 24). In the choreography of Alexis Ffrench‘s Dreamland the setting is completely different: the office rather than the great outdoors. The album of the same name is released on Sony Music March 20. ‘Tis the season for piano-based videos, as Still is the first taste of Seamus O’Muineachain‘s calm, comforting Blue Moon Set (Ghost Home Recordings, April 20).
As amazed as we were at Hutchings’ “Seventeen,” we’re even more astounded by the fact that the first track of Frank Horvat‘s A Little Dark Music 2 is an hour long. This is a make-or-break decision that few composers ever attempt. The album is a sequel to the 2010 work of a similar name (March 27). Another sequel is Piano Textures 5, from Bruno Sanfilippo, who launched the series in 2007, and has been alternating with themed releases ever since (March 26). Valeska Rautenberg is in the middle of a piano triptych called Songs for Piano, Wind and Water. The first EP was Veins; the upcoming EP is titled Into the Still White, inspired by the nature and emotion of Berlin (April 24).
Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson imagines a dialogue between two classic artists on Rameau-Debussy, alternating their pieces like a conversation (Deutsche Grammofon, March 27). Maike Zazie makes the conversation literal by combining sung pieces with spoken word in numerous languages. Instrumental versions are included as well. The Seismopsychollage book and CD package is inspired by multiple works of literature and visual art, and is released March 20 on 7K! Zoon van snooK labels his musical style “oddtronica,” but Se•pa•ra•ción is centered around the piano. The album embraces numerous field recordings from his international travels, and deals with all manner of separations (thus the title), from the personal to the sociopolitical (Lo Recordings, April 3).
“Romantic minimalist” Karim Kamar returns with the tender set Smll Mvmnts. He’s been working hard over the last three years with a series of public performances in train stations and malls and is now poised to hit the mainstream (Ostereo, May 1). Pianist Pamela Reimer and flutist Marie-Hélène Breault join forces on Mes hommages, offering new arrangements of Canadian compositions, plus some compositions in their first recorded forms (actuellecd, March 24). The new Frans Bak set is simply called Piano, led by the mournful, cello-drenched single Parting (Dharma, April 17).
Life Beyond Piano
After performing with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich, violinist Sebastian Mullaert was inspired to push the project further, and we’re glad he did. Natthall is one of the season’s sweetest surprises, a nature-based suite that soothes and uplifts (Neue Meister, April 3, pictured right). There’s a tiny bit of irony in the title of Clarice Jensen‘s latest work, The experience of repetition as death. The artist experiments with repetition in these pieces, but while her cello loops border on ominous, they also teem with life. (Fatcat/130701, April 3). Lea Bertucci is one of the hardest-working artists we know, and is continually expanding her horizons. Acoustic Shadows is an elegant examination of brass timbres that includes a sample library for other musicians (SA Recordings, April 15). Christine Ott champions the Ondes Martenot, an instrument that is finally coming into its own. The music of Chimères is exclusively Ondes, and should raise its profile even higher (Nahal, April 10). Futuristic in nature, Robot Koch‘s The Next Billion Years enlists the Nordic Pulse Orchestra for a foray into beats and strings that should have a healthy half-life. The premiere single, Liquid, might even sneak into clubs (Modern Recordings, April 24).
Inspired by the US national parks, the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble recorded a series of tributes ranging from light and airy to dark and foreboding. Most of these pieces fall into the chamber genre, but some of the later pieces incorporate electronics as well. Dawn Chorus is out April 24 on Innova. As indicated by the title, NMC‘s Young Composers Scheme highlights the works of a slew of new composers, many of whom are intricate and complex in their approaches (April 24). Sea Island & Ferry is set to release Telescope on May 19. The ensemble continues to explore the role of Chinese instrumentation in modern chamber music, showcasing the timbres of xiao and more.
One would think that Jacaszek had only recently turned to film, but the oldest piece in Music for Film dates back to 2008. The bulk of these selections come from Rainer Sarnet’s November, a dark folkloric fantasy tailor made for the artist’s timbres (Ghostly International, March 27). Mick Harvey‘s Waves of ANZAC/The Journey includes the scores to two documentaries, one a personal story about WWI, the other an expose of child refugee detention. The strings are heavy, the sorrow deep (Mute, April 17).
Tomorrow we turn our attention to the season’s new releases in Ambient and Drone!