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Album Review: Portraits
Brian Hagen
Cover image of the album Portraits by Brian Hagen
Brian Hagen
2022 / Fairlane Publishing
59 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Portraits is the fourth album from pianist/composer Brian Hagen and is his first album of all original solo piano compositions. The fifteen tracks were recorded on a Yamaha C5 grand piano at Audio For the Arts studios in Madison, WI. The music on this album is "intended to depict portraits not only of people, but of life itself. Most of them are impressions, and some are from my own experiences. Some have their origins in harmonic chordal progressions that I found interesting. Some have their origins in so-called lucid dreams. I wanted this collection to express thoughts, feelings, and situations that most everyone can relate to fairly well." I think that goal has been beautifully met!

Expressing a very pleasant mix of moods and stories, Hagen's style is an eclectic mix of adult contemporary, jazz, classical, new age and space music genres. He started piano lessons at the age of four and started learning jazz and rock repertoire before high school. Brian was a music major at Illinois State University, and then moved to the Chicago area where he performed with rock bands, nightclub singers and jazz groups. When he returned to Madison, WI, he joined Ark Improvisational Theater as a musical contributor. He is also a longtime piano teacher. All of these influences come together to create a unique voice in Brian's music.

Portraits begins with "Iridescence," a piece that moves as smoothly and effortlessly as the title implies, with an easy, relaxed blending of colors that keep changing as they move together. "A Time For Love" is a beautiful "song without words" that expresses pure romantic bliss - gentle and sincere. "Garden Duet" takes a different approach in that some of the melody is played in the upper octaves of the piano and some is played in the lower range - I assume by crossing the right hand over the left - creating two individual voices and the feeling of a duet. Nicely done! "You Are My Everything" and "Forever Love" are both tender love songs, pure and simple. "Regrets" is my favorite piece on the album. Poignant and deeply introspective, it's a beautiful expression of something we hope to not experience very often. "The Love We Had, The Love We Lost" is also tinged with sadness and regret as well as passages that convey happier memories - another very beautiful piece! "After the Rain" suggests feelings of freshness and renewal, much like the atmosphere outdoors after a rain shower. "Reunion" kicks up the tempo a bit for a piece about a joyful celebration after time apart - sure to bring a smile! I really like this one, too! "Starlight Dance" expresses a different kind of joy - a sense of freedom and light-heartedness that touches the soul. The album closes with "The Peace Within," another favorite. Tranquility and feelings of contentment flow from every note, soothing the mind and warming the heart.

Portraits is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites such as Spotify.
February 1, 2022