Pianosphere, Vol. 1
2023 / Blue Spiral Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Pianosphere, Vol. 1 is the first of a two-part project by Italian pianist/composer Andrea Barone and is his first recording for the Blue Spiral Records label. The project is a collection of timeless classical piano solos arranged and adapted for synths (the melodic themes) and electric pianos (the harmonic accompaniments). Barone's intentions were to enhance the beauty of these well-known pieces and to give them a more contemporary sound. In a way, this is a similar approach to Wendy Carlos' series of albums of classics played on the then-new Moog synthesizers back in the late 1960s and 70s (was that really 50+ years ago???). The eight tracks on the album will be familiar to most listeners with any experience with classical piano music at all, and Barone's arrangements are very faithful to the original pieces - the keyboards are the biggest difference. As a longtime piano teacher, I can play most of the eight pieces in my sleep, but I really love this new treatment of them and Barone's effort to make them more appealing to contemporary ears and musical tastes without offending classicists (I hope!).
The album begins with Chopin's "Prelude in E Minor (Op. 28 No. 4)," a mournful piece that has been a favorite of mine for many years. The sound is similar to a felted piano with just enough reverb to give it a slightly mysterious cast. I love it! Robert Schumann's "Dreaming" ("Träumerei") is another very well-known and beloved classic, and this arrangement overflows with warmth and tenderness. Mendelssohn composed several "Barcarolles" ("Boat Songs"), and this one (Op. 30 #6) has a sound something like a theremin playing the melody and a guitar or other plucked instrument playing the accompaniment. Delicate and very poignant, I keep coming back to hear it again and again! Debussy's "Des pas sur la neige" ("Footprints in the Snow") expresses a deep chill in the air as well as feelings of mystery and stark beauty. Clementi's "Rondo Op. 36 #5" is a lively, joyful dance sure to bring a smile. "Consolation #3" by Liszt is another longtime favorite of mine, and I love this transformation. The melody has an organ sound while the flowing left hand part sounds more plucked or pizzicato - dreamy and tranquil. Continuing the feeling of floating on a cloud is Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," one of the most beautiful pieces ever composed. Barone's arrangement sounds very faithful to the original and has mostly keyboard sounds with some string sounds here and there - musical magic! The last track on the album is the Aria from JS Bach's Goldberg Variations. Stately and elegant, it almost sounds like a harpsichord and organ duet - a great ending to an excellent album!
There have been a lot of great new albums being released over the past few months, and Pianosphere, Vol. 1 is up there with the best of them! I can't wait to hear Vol. 2! The album is available to stream and/or download from Blue Spiral Records, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and all music streaming platforms. Very highly recommended!
October 5, 2023