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Album Review: The Art of Piano
David Hicken
Cover image of the album The Art of Piano by David Hicken
The Art of Piano
David Hicken
2016 / Enchanting Piano
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
David Hicken captured many people’s attention with his solo piano arrangement of “The Bell Carol” (aka “Carol of the Bells”) on his 2013 solo piano release Carols of Christmas and the video that went with it. Obviously, the world was ready for some piano music with muscle behind it, and so was Hicken. Hicken’s primary instrument used to be the organ and his favorite composer is JS Bach, much of whose music is also dazzling in its virtuosity (and that Hicken has mastered over the years). Put all of those influences together and you have the makings of the often jaw-dropping The Art of Piano, a collection of twelve original piano solos that were composed over the period of a year and that show just how amazing a pianist Hicken is. This music is fast, dramatic and often very exciting. I have reviewed (and loved!) all of Hicken’s recordings and this one shows a different side of his playing and composing. The companion songbook contains all twelve solos - they are not easy, but are well worth the effort it takes to master them!

The Art of Piano begins with “Incantation,” possibly my all-time favorite Hicken composition. The energy and drive of the piece are intoxicating as is the pure joy of playing it. If you listen closely, you can hear Bach’s influence in some of the sections. “The Letter” has a beautiful, poignant melody that flows in and out of the more energetic passages. With quite a bit of its melody in the bass clef, “Talavera” is vibrant and conveys a sense of intrigue and mystery. “Resurgam” translates from Latin to “I shall rise again.” I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the piece, which has a strong Baroque influence and a very dramatic, cinematic feel. “The Rhapsodist” is another favorite. I think Bach might have been in the room when this was conceived and he might have even smiled as it progressed! The lyrical melody works well with the more percussive rhythm and dances from one end of the piano to the other - very exciting! “The Return” slows the melody down a bit, although there is still plenty of action underlying it - very beautiful! “Camille” also has a very cinematic feeling to it - bright and colorful with perhaps a touch of triumph. I see gallant knights and ladies in long flowing dresses dancing in a courtyard. “Deliverance” takes off at a gallop and never lets up. Again, very intricate and Baroque-flavored, the energy level stays high with fascinating forays into the deep bass of the piano. “The Messenger” is another favorite and I think this one is a nod to Chopin. The melody is passionate and dramatic but relatively simple over a rapidly-moving accompaniment played with both hands (Chopin often did this, too). I really love playing this one! “Renaissance” reminds me just a bit of Yanni in spots. High energy, mysterious, and beautifully-flowing, it’s another standout.

So, if you’re in the mood for some “big” and showy piano music composed and played by a master of the instrument, The Art of Piano should do very nicely! It is available from www.DavidHicken.com, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
February 26, 2017
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