Works for Solo Piano
Eric Chapelle and Michelle Schumann
2023 / Companionable Streams Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Eric Chapelle's Works for Solo Piano is his first full-length album since Across the Water (2010) and Our Time (1998). Eric has released quite a few singles since then, including four from this album that were released in 2021. Chapelle composed the twelve tracks and enlisted Michelle Schumann, a Professor of Music at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, to perform the works in two recording sessions - one in June 2021 and one in May 2023. Eric performed his own works on his earlier recordings and explains why he didn't this time:
"I felt that having a classically trained pianist read the notations and then interpret the works would greatly enhance the music for the listener's enjoyment....Michelle and I worked for three years on this project. And during that time, I was influenced to write new compositions with her in mind. Michelle's astonishing ability to take on any technical challenges pushed me to write in a different way."
Works for Solo Piano begins with "Place in Landscape (Baga Beach)," a beautiful piece of shimmering tranquility that sparkles like sunlight (or moonlight) dancing on calm ocean waves. "In the Presence of Beauty" has a magical quality with a much freer flow that seems to be continuously changing and evolving. "First Light" is one of my favorites. The first movement is very slow and peaceful - much like the atmosphere right before dawn. The second movement is somewhat more dramatic, but remains quiet and dreamy. As its title suggests, "Transformation" also seems to evolve as it unfolds. This gradual transformation is very smooth and natural, sometimes expressed in quiet tones and sometimes with a bit more drama. At over 8 minutes, "Place In Landscape Moulin de Senlis" has plenty of time to tell its magical tale about an historical landmark in France that used to be an old water mill. Photos show the area to be both beautiful and stately, and I can only imagine how many stories it could tell from its long history. The music itself has many themes that are seamlessly woven together - some dark and serious, and some that are lighter - and are always fascinating and expressive. "Prelude in C# Minor (In Remembrance)" is very pensive and reflective, possibly working through feelings of loss at the piano. Ms Schumann obviously really understood the piece and plays it with deep emotion.
The four singles that were released in 2021 are the four last tracks on the album. Recorded on a different piano (a Steinway Model D), there is a slight change in the piano sound, but it isn't distracting. "Reflection No. 1" is warmly romantic as well as contemplative and dreamy. "Nocturne No. 1" is slow, fluid and very serene. It feels like the most pleasant of dreams and could also serve as a sweet lullaby for kids of any age - another favorite! Very quiet, spare and impressionistic, "Contemplation From a Distance" soothes and relaxes, enveloping the listener in a soft cloud of beautiful sounds. The album comes to a close with "Dusk to Dawn." Very peaceful and ambient, it beautifully reflects on the quiet tranquility of the time when the world settles down for the night.
Works for Solo Piano is beyond impressive and was well worth the wait between albums. Eric Chapelle may have composed his "magnum opus" with this album, and Michelle Schumann's artistry is the perfect match for this music. CDs are available from Eric's website. Downloads are available from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes. The album is also available from many of the streaming platforms. This contemporary classical album is highly recommended!
October 11, 2023