2022 / Tree Tales Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Tree Tales is the fifteenth album from German composer/ pianist/ keyboardist Bernward Koch and is the first release on his own Tree Tales Records. Bernward was one of the prominent artists on the Real Music label for many years. He released ten albums and appeared on several compilations with that label and recently decided to create his own company. Known world-wide for his gentle, soothing melodies, Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, has certified Bernward's music as "anti-stress music, particularly suitable for relaxation, meditation, yoga accompaniment, chill-out, sleep problems or general stress management." His music has also been effectively utilized by Massachusetts Fallen Soldiers, an organization that treats suicidal U.S. soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The piano is always the primary instrument in Bernward's music and is often accompanied by synthesizer/keyboard, flute, guitar, and a variety of percussion instruments.
Nature is one inspiration for Bernward's music and the writing of Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) is another. Hesse is the most widely-read German-speaking author of the 20th century and Bernward has been an avid reader of his work since childhood. He released a solo piano album in 2008 called Montagnola that is dedicated to Hesse and is named for the place where Hesse made a fresh start after traumatic events of WWI. In an interesting coincidence, Bernward has a quote from Hesse on the back of his album cover for Tree Tales, and Hesse's book titled Trees was published by Kale Press in the US about two weeks before the release of the album - a match made in heaven!
Tree Tales begins with "The Key," a gentle piano solo that sets the quiet, pensive tone of the album. "Inner Light" glows with the warmth of contentment and peace. Light keyboard enhancements give the piece an even more ethereal feeling. "Lonely Pinwheel" has an almost hymn-like feeling, which is interesting, given the fanciful title. I think I'd know right away that "Warm Fall Sun" is a Bernward Koch piece. Warm, uncomplicated and soothing, it's a beautiful favorite. I really like "Hidden Dream," too, with its dreamy, magical qualities. "Sweet Memory" begins as a piano solo, adding ambient sounds and strings while the melody stays with the piano - very calming and soothing. "Beech Woodland" is another favorite. One of the more orchestrated pieces, it has a slightly bittersweet feeling that is often present when you're in the midst of profound beauty. "A Rare Flower" goes a bit darker and more mysterious as it tells the story of a very special discovery. "Dark Old Trees" expresses the peaceful majesty of being in a very old forest as well as the wonder of the many years the trees have stood there and what they might have witnessed and experienced during that time. The album comes to a very peaceful close with "Autumnal Landscape" as piano and strings create a beautiful vision of the colors of fall, the crispness in the air and the change of season. Ahhh, I feel like I've had a refreshing mind massage. Thanks, Bernward!
Tree Tales is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and the various streaming sites including Spotify. Very highly recommended!
May 19, 2022
Review by Michael Debbage