2013 / Fairlane Publishing
Review by Kathy Parsons
Reflections is a collection of twenty-one relatively short classical piano solos performed by Brian Hagen. Most of the pieces are played as written, but Hagen did some arranging on six of them. Most, if not all, of the pieces were composed pre-20th century and many are often used for teaching piano students (no “Fur Elise” or “Canon in D” - these pieces aren’t THAT familiar!). None of the pieces are overly heavy or flashy, making this an excellent companion for a variety of quieter moments in life. Hagen’s piano touch is natural and very expressive, and on some of the pieces that he arranged, it is also playful. Classically-trained from a very young age through college as a piano music major, Hagen has a lifetime of experience with this music along with jazz, rock, and improvisation. He currently performs classical music twice a week during brunch at an upscale restaurant in Madison, WI.
The collection includes selections from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras, but are not performed in chronological order. In fact, the time periods bounce around quite dramatically, which I find very enjoyable - and it makes playing “Name That Tune” or “Name That Composer” a bit more of a challenge. From the Baroque era, there are pieces by Scarlatti (1), Bach (4) and Handel (1). From the Classical era, Clementi (4) and Beethoven (1). From the Romantic, Grieg (3), Chopin (2), and one each by Liszt, Saint-Saens, Villoldo, Reinecke, and Albeniz.
As much as I love many of these pieces in their original form, I have to admit to especially liking the pieces Hagen arranged. “El Choclo” by Villoldo is a familiar tango imbued with a light and playful touch and even some humor. “Phantom” by Grieg has a graceful flow and a gentle, lyrical melody that is absolutely gorgeous (I’m on my way to the bookcase to see if I have the sheet music for this one!). “Tango” by Albeniz is also playful and humorous in some places, elegant in others - an interesting combination that works well in this case! “Tristesse” by Chopin shows Hagen’s touch at its most tender - a wonderful performance and arrangement! Saint-Saens’ “The Swan” has always been one of my favorites, and I love Hagen’s expressive arrangement. It’s a lovely way to end the album!
If you like classical piano solos that are relaxing and on the soft side, I think you’ll really like Reflections. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
March 9, 2016