Phillip Schroeder: Music for Piano
Phillip Schroeder and Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi
2005 / Capstone Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Phillip Schroeder’s Music for Piano is a contemporary classical album of original piano solos that are played to perfection on a Bosendorfer Imperial Grand by Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi. Minimalistic, atmospheric, and evocative, these pieces are sonic paintings that invite the listener to sit back and listen with eyes closed, letting the imagination go where it may. There is so much open space in the music, that the sounds between the notes become as important as the notes that are actually played. A music professor at Henderson State University in Arkansas, Schroeder has a rich and varied musical background that includes composing for orchestra and wind ensembles, experimental improvisation, and piano performance. Ms Astolfi is a piano and music theory teacher, also at Henderson State University, and has worked with Schroeder on previous projects; she obviously really understands his music.
Of the nineteen tracks, the first twelve are from a collection appropriately titled “Twelve Pieces for Piano.” These pieces are mostly quite short, ranging from 35 seconds to 3 1/2 minutes. Without subtitles, the listener is free to imagine what these nuggets are about or to simply savor the meditative sounds for what they are. Most of the pieces are very spare, somewhat dark, and quiet. #4 is a 35 second romp up and down the keyboard - light and fun. #5 has a bell-like quality, and #8 is darkly mysterious. #9 is very agitated while #10 is more of a whisper. The twelve pieces are varied and intricate, and always interesting. “No Reason Why” is much longer and more developed, maintaining the quiet, meditative feeling - very tranquil! “Floating” is one of the most open of the pieces with sustained chords that really do float, along with atmospheric glissandos on the piano strings that suggest distant thunder - very effective. “From The Shadows of Angels” is even more open, and at almost eight minutes in length, it becomes like a cozy dream that weaves in and out of consciousness. The last four pieces are a collection called “Moons,” with one piece for each phase of the moon. “New” suggests twinkling stars against a very dark sky with lots of space between the stars; “First” also sparkles, but is more complex; “Full” is graceful and more melodic; and “Last” suggests that something may be fading away or ending.
Music For Piano is an outstanding collection of experimental piano works. Much of the music is abstract and discordant, but it is never jarring or difficult to listen to. Both cerebral and expressive, I’m sure this CD won’t collect dust on my shelf! It is currently available from www.capstonerecords.org.
December 10, 2004