I really love reviewing albums when something like Rebecca Oswald’s Whereas
comes across my desk! I heard some of these pieces live a few months ago, but even that didn’t prepare me for the soulful beauty of the recording. The thirteen original piano solos are Oswald’s creative response to a gift of unpublished personal poems that express “the joy of unity, the sorrow of separation, the desire to know and be known, the bliss of loving and being loved” (quoted from the liner notes). Many of the stanzas of the poems begin with “Whereas
,” inspiring the title. Oswald is an amazing pianist who has worked in a wide range of musical styles and media. In this music, she sought to incorporate the emotional depth and theoretical elegance of the great classical solo piano literature in her own compositional voice, setting parameters for the music she hadn’t used in earlier compositions. The results are stunning in their emotional depth, passion and honesty.
begins with “The Whisper of the Meaning,” a stately piece with with an elegantly flowing melody and frequent changes to the key and time signatures that give it a slight edge. “The Constantly Pulsing Universe Inside Me” never stops moving. It begins slowly and freely and then starts dancing all over the piano - sometimes bright and sparkling, sometimes darker and more intense. “My Blue Ocean, Your Eyes” is one of my favorites. The left hand plays a series of rolling chords that create a hypnotic rhythm to accompany the quietly passionate and exotic melody - gorgeous! “Each Flower Will Sing Your Song” is as light and gentle as a spring breeze. “My Solitude is Entrusted to You” is very slow and very dark, using the sostenuto pedal to great effect. “The Gentle Rain of Your Pure Love” is much lighter and more tender, again expressing deep emotion in a style not unlike Chopin. Very open and honest, the poignance of the piece goes right to the heart. “While Trying to Get Used to Your Absence” is my favorite in this collection. I remember being spellbound when I saw Rebecca play it live, and the recording has the same effect - plus the ability to hit “replay” as often as I want! This incredible piece expresses the profound emptiness of being away from the one you love better than any music I can think of. I’ve probably heard this piece a dozen times, and I’m still in awe of it. “I Must Have Revealed You” is also amazing and my second-favorite. The graceful melody flows over the expressive and mysterious left hand - perhaps another nod to Chopin - just gorgeous! “You Have Never Left” is a warm and tender love song. “A Complete Life In Our Hands” is a happy dance, relishing the joy of love and the prospect of a bright and exciting future together. Try sitting still while this one is playing! “Ordinary Bliss” is quiet and meditative with a repeated figure on the left hand and a graceful melody expressing tranquility and inner peace - a lovely close to an extraordinary album.
is guaranteed a spot on my Favorites of 2011 list, and will also be in my Top 5. It is truly an exceptional album in every way and I cannot recommend it highly enough. You’ve hit this one out of the ballpark, Rebecca! I’m giving you a standing ovation while typing at my computer! Whereas
is available from www.rebeccaoswald.com
, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.