This is a welcome return to ACL for Henning Schmiedt, who we last reviewed enthusiastically in 2017 for a collaboration with Christoph Berg. There’s a phrase from that review that stands out, ‘a feeling of playful innocence’, a feeling that pervades this charming album, a set of fifteen short pieces. It’s full of warmth, full of beautiful melodies gently played. Yes, it is one of many felted piano albums that have been released in the recent years, but its quality and purpose really stands apart.
As young children our sense of scale is different: we live in cavernous rooms, are surrounded by world-shaping giants, tower over our toys. Through our play we attempt to comprehend the sensory-overload. Schmied writes in the press release that when working on the album:
“I felt like I was back to my childhood. I was back to the games of that time, how I made trees, horses, small locomotives, mini castles, and entire miniature cities from building blocks. It was so exciting to do it all myself. To be completely immersed in the game and to look at and design everything from above simultaneously.”
This is a charmingly accessible album and it is also a piece of exquisite craftsmanship, whether it be the powerful instrumental use of sound-design in the solo piano pieces, or the intricate interactions with other instruments in pieces like “stille nacht”. Each piece works perfectly: the melodies sing playfully, the underlying structures support and elevate.
There’s a therapeutic practise for treating trauma called working with the inner child in which the person in need of healing is encouraged to revisit difficult childhood experiences. The therapist gently explores with the patient what that child needed, which is sometimes heartbreakingly simple: a place of safety, a piece of guidance, a loving hug. The patient then imagines giving their inner child what they needed in that painful moment, and in doing so, they help themself heal. This album is an aural embodiment of that loving hug; it’s full of warmth and innocent wonder. If the adult world is becoming too much, Henning Schmiedt offers you an exquisite escape. (Garreth Brooke)