Marcel Zidani (who will be known to some readers as the author of Hey Presto! which I spoke to him about in this interview) has been busy collating a playlist of some of the best piano music on SoundCloud, and I’m delighted that he has invited me to share it with you in this Sunday Sounds special feature!
Marcel invited ten pianists active on SoundCloud to submit one solo piano piece, plus a second track which could contain other instrumentation (although most musicians submitted two solo piano pieces).
From the virtuoso to the intimate, from bluesy licks to gorgeous neo-classical melodies and intense experimental outbursts – this is a playlist which really has it all.
My recommendation – bookmark this page so that you can return and listen again and again, because this compilation makes a great album to live with and enjoy.
And if you enjoy what you hear, please also pop over to the SoundCloud site, set up a free account if you don’t have one, and follow these artists there.
As a child I became enamoured with the music of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, who was without doubt one of the great piano composers of his generation. As an adolescent student I found huge pleasure in learning as many of his Lyric Pieces as I could (they are all between around Grades 4-8), including the deliciously evocative To Spring.
The unseasonably balmy weather in the past week has put me in mind of this lovely piece, which looks forward to the coming of Spring with infectious optimism.
There are several enjoyable and interesting performances of the piece on YouTube, including an ancient recording (barely audible) of the composer himself playing it at breakneck speed.
At the other end of the spectrum, Russian icon Sviatoslav Richter plays at less than half the composer’s tempo: a ponderous interpretation that suggests the maestro wasn’t expecting the ice to thaw anytime soon!
Here it is performed by the brilliant Alice Sara Ott, who we discover is also rather a dab hand at origami …
I’ve been enjoying the music of Düsseldorf-based German musician Tom Blankenberg since a few years ago, when he first joined the Soundcloud community for pianists which I was running at the time. And in the intervening years it has been a thrill to see his music develop, to hear that he was touring, and now that his debut album is recorded and released.
“Atermus” offers an accomplished and rounded set of reflective piano works, all superbly recorded (which is perhaps not surprising given Tom’s background as a sound designer and film editor who also records for media and advertising) and released on the Less Records label.
Talking about his piano music, which belongs to the new “neoclassical” or minimal stream, Tom says:
“I tend to call them Short Stories or Polaroids or sometimes even Calendar Sheets.”
A wonderful description, but see what you think for yourself. For me, this is one of the best contemplative and reflective piano albums I’ve heard – I love it!
I hope you will agree that from the experimental harmonies of opening track Tori and through 13 successive moments of musical beauty, concluding with the lusciously melodic November and warmly intimate Nesuto, this is a stunning album!
By the way, in case you were wondering, Tom tells me that the striking title ‘Atermus’ is just a meaningless word which occurred to him while recording:
“I like nonsense titles more that too discriptive ones…”
The album was recorded at Van Heys Studio, Kleve, and in Düsseldorf between November 2017-April 2018, and brings together pieces composed mostly between 2012 and 2018 (together with one earlier piece dating from 1987).
The cover art, incidentally, is a reproduction of a work by Hiroshi Kjawano.
You can listen to the full album below, stream on Apple Music or Spotify, and it is also available to purchase on CD or vinyl. Enjoy!
The internationally acclaimed concert pianist Alice Sara Ott recently issued a heartfelt and brave statement concerning her health and recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, touching on the impact this has already had on her life, and on her hopes for her career.
Alice is without question one of the leading pianists of her generation.
Her recordings for Deutsche Grammophon have been consistently excellent and innovative; as an independently-minded creative artist she has already made a huge mark, even though she only recently turned 30.
Launching my Recording of the Month feature on Pianodao last autumn, her outstanding “Nightfall” disc of Debussy, Satie and Ravel was my immediate choice for the inaugural article, which you can read here (and please do).
For this week’s Sunday Sounds, I’ve picked the enchanting opening track from that album, courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon‘s YouTube channel:
It’s time to relaunch this regular feature on Pianodao, and what better way to do it than to share the recent piano improvisations of my good friend Simon Reich, an award-winning composer who will be known to regular readers for his frequent guest posts on Pianodao, and in particular for their wonderfully encouraging tone.
It’s a reflection on this consummate musician’s gift that his solo improvisations are every bit as warm and encouraging as his words. I’ve had a listen to the latest tracks he has shared on SoundCloud, and compiled this playlist of a few favourites.
Many of these pieces showcase Simon’s studio nous, with gorgeous electronic treatments and delay effects beautifully enhancing his music. Enjoy!
Michael McDonald grew up in North Carolina, USA, but has for the last 15 years lived in Helsinki, Finland, where he is the music teacher in an english-language school.
A gifted pianist, Michael enjoys exploring the sound-world of different and unusual pianos, which has drawn him to many of the more recent sample libraries from Native Instruments such as ‘The Maverick’, and ‘Una Corda’ (a prepared piano about which I will be writing more here soon!), as well as Spitfire Audio’s “Gwilym Simcock Felt Piano”, which is heard in this beautiful piece ‘Shifting’.
Michael says of this track:
“I work on music in my 6-year-old daughter’s room. My speakers are surrounded by a huge pile of stuffed animals. My daughter often asks me to ‘play her to sleep’ at night, so I work on these quiet piano pieces, mostly improvising around some simple idea, and later realize she’s fallen asleep. I love the work of Nils Frahm and Ólafur Arnalds and hope to include some small facet of their work in my own.”
Michael’s SoundCloud page contains a lot more tracks, many of them evocative experiments with the sounds of the latest new instruments he has acquired, and it is well worth exploring his work there:
An artist I came to know on SoundCloud a few years ago, I immediately fell in love with Bruno’s music when I first heard it. It’s a winning combination of minimal piano music with classical sensitivities and the electronics of Brian Eno’s ambient work.
Bruno’s site describes himself thus:
“Bruno Sanfilippo is a classically trained musician and composer. His focus alternates between the exploration of minimalist piano concepts and electroacoustic music. He is obsessed with the search for new and unique qualities in music – the amazing, the magical and the deep. In dreams, there’s no imagined thing that’s too absurd, too strange, and Bruno Sanfilippo’s music comes from that inexhaustible and shameless source.”
“Inside Life” is a 7 track CD release that came out a while ago. It offers a warm welcome to Bruno’s sound world, and I hope you will feel yourself immersed as I do when listening to these beautiful tracks.
Credits: Cello: Julián Kancepolski Analog Mastered by Ian Hawgood · Tokio Artwork & layout by Andy Ruggia · Buenos Aires
Oliver Sadie was one of the first musicians whose piano recordings I discovered when I joined SoundCloud a few years ago, and with whom I connected in those earlier, more “community” oriented days on the platform.
One aspect of Oliver’s musical development which has inspired many is his ability to provide a complete “package” – not simply great music, but also well played, beautifully recorded and packaged. These reveal the skills and dedication of a true professional, and it has been a pleasure to see over the years how his subsequent career as an upcoming award-winning media composer has developed.
An irony is that although Oliver has worked so hard to develop his career, his music comes easily and naturally.
He is one of the most talented free improvisers I know of outside of jazz, effortlessly playing, recording and performing fully-formed piano works with the spontaneity that comes from genuine talent, and with an appeal that has naturally attracted a huge following.
“Solo” is a track in which Oliver returns to this simple ethos.