Monday, August 18, 2008

PianoSoft Review: Rising Star Series (1 of 3)

PianoSoft Review: Rising Star Series

Rising Star is an original series from Yamaha recorded especially for Yamaha disklavier / player pianos. These titles take advantage of the disklavier's sensitivity to each performer's individual touch, allowing you to enjoy solo piano performances by today's best young pianists.

Part 1 of 3: "Strangely Familiar Melodies"
To start, I'll introduce three titles featuring well known compositions you may already be familiar with, but whose performance here may surprise you.

Derek Wieland "Red Hot Romantics"

You'd never guess it by looking at his promotional photo, but in addition to his work as a classical pianist Derek Wieland is also active on the rock scene with his own band. Only Wieland, who has played with such titans of progressive rock as Jon Anderson of Yes and Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, can perform so floridly and dramatically.

On this album Wieland tackles several famously difficult Franz Liszt pieces with remarkable technical virtuosity, as well as well known pieces by Bach and Schubert arranged by Liszt. He is also able to channel Debussy with a light and lyrical touch. In Derek's hands these familiar melodies are imbued with an opulent, romantic quality.

Noriko Suzuki: "My Favorite Repertoire"

New York based pianist Noriko Suzuki’s album casts a wide net, from 18th century works by Rameau to contemporary pieces by Kabalevsky, making this a truly unique title.

Pieces composed in different eras also show differences in harmonic progression, reverberation, and range, all calling for their own unique touch. A true test for any pianist is how well they can express those different styles and still play them with feeling and personality. Noriko's clear playing here makes the nuances of each era come alive in a truly expressive performance.

Particularly enjoyable are the three pieces from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet op. 64."

Adam Birnbaum "Songs Made Famous by Frank Sinatra"

Blurring the line between the classical and jazz worlds, pianist Adam Birnbaum may be the perfect person to interpret the works of Frank Sinatra. Perfectly balancing jazz and classical, this album takes an intelligent and sophisticated approach to bring the works of Sinatra into the present.

It's true for any piece of music, but especially here it's useful to pay attention to the
"tension" and "release" in the playing. So much depends on how tension naturally created by harmony and rhythm is released with exquisite timing. Birnbaum is a master of tension and release timing; just listen to the harmonies on "How Deep is the Ocean" or his use of rhythm on "Night and Day" and you'll be transported.


Products Reviewed:
Derek Wieland "Red Hot Romantics" - PianoSoft Solo
Noriko Suziki: "My Favorite Repertoire" - PianoSoft Solo
Adam Birnbaum "Songs Made Famous by Frank Sinatra" - PianoSoft Solo