Moonlight in Empty Rooms
2018 / Winterhall Records
Review by Michael Debbage
Heidi Breyer is unequivocally one of the genre’s premiere pianists who never takes the easy way out. Her music is never overstated nor obvious and as a result her art does require some time to really bloom within your heart and soul. The lack of blatant ear candy means multiple listens before you truly have an opportunity to deeply appreciate her art. With this patience you are also deeply rewarded with music that has staying power that will not find itself sitting on the shelf collecting dust because the flavor of the month has come and gone. Moonlight in Empty Rooms from that perspective is equivalent if not better than any of Breyer’s past exceptional records.
Despite the pure consistent top shelf material that Heidi Breyer is capable of creating, she is always looking for unique ways to express herself. This time around is no different as her music blends with the artwork of her artist husband Alexander Volkov, prominently featured not only within the 28 page booklet but also on an accompanying DVD. In fact the album is so significantly dedicated to his work that it is subtitled A Musical Study Of The Art Of Alexander Volkov. In fact Breyer and Volkov give us a track by track commentary of their musical and painting inspirations featured on each song and respective artwork.
Nevertheless this is a musical review and it matches the high class expectations not only of Breyer but also a wonderful way to understand where some of the inspiration of her music comes from. All twelve tracks are composed (with a little borrowing on one) and performed by Breyer with Charlie Bisharat featured on violin. Add the production prowess of Breyer along with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton to guide her, then you have all the ingredients of yet another stellar recording.
For the most part the music is typical of what to expect from Heidi Breyer who does not like to stand still in her accolades. From a pure solo outing last time around, to even vocal efforts prior to that, the focus this time around are sophisticated and classy violin duets with Charlie Bisharat with a range of emotive moods. The album opens with the subdued “Unfinished Conversation” followed by a similar disposition on “Autumn Snowfall” only to change gears with the at times more playful and cheeky “Autumn In Bruges”. While it is the same time of the year there are two very different climatic themes. One paints an early onset of winter versus the other reflecting the setting sun of a lingering summer closing out. Perhaps it even reflects two different locales as far as the painting inspiration is concerned. Either way there are two very contrasting settings both in the art and the music they inspire.
In keeping with the “Autumn In Bruges” more upbeat moment, Breyer comes alive on the title track “Moonlight In Empty Rooms”. Here the song features a four part violin orchestration and has the most obvious harmonic themes however it does not sound out of place with the remaining balance of the album. The tempo can also be felt not only on the title track but also in the music of “The Sound And The Fury” with Bisharat and Breyer exchanging musical moments. Needless to say the music clearly identifies with its song title.
With the exception of borrowing some phrasing and variations of an old hymn on “Faith” that clocks in over 8 minutes, the musical compositions are all Heidi Breyer. It is also very clear that both she and the artist Alexander Volkov had a very clear vision for this album. From cover to booklet to performance and finally production, they are involved in every aspect of this top shelf album that exudes grace, class and style. But this is something that we have come to expect from Heidi Breyer, who never goes for the emotional jugular but instead presents us with yet another album that will stay with us for the long haul.
September 1, 2018