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Album Review: Synfonia II
Joe Bongiorno
Cover image of the album Synfonia II by Joe Bongiorno
Synfonia II
Joe Bongiorno
2021 / Piano Haven
47 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Synfonia II is a wonderful collection of ten of Joe Bongiorno's piano solos brilliantly orchestrated by Doug Hammer. The first Synfonia album was released in 2015 and was also a collaboration with Doug. That album was dedicated to Joe's father, Joe Bongiorno Sr. and was inspired by his love of the piano and the symphony as well as his support of Joe and his music. Very sadly, Joe's dad passed away about a year ago, and Synfonia II is also very lovingly dedicated to him. The ten orchestrations are arrangements of pieces from six of Joe's previous albums (this one is his twelfth), and as much as I've always loved Joe's piano solos, the orchestrations give the music a different feeling with a broader range of musical colors and emotional expression. Doug Hammer is also an incredible pianist, so he obviously understands Joe's intentions with the music and the two have created a richly rewarding musical experience. Joe is a Shigeru Kawaii Artist, and all of the piano parts were recored on his SK-7L grand at his Piano Haven Studio in Sedona, AZ.

Synfonia II begins with "Touched," which originally appeared on Forever More (2012) and Somewhere Within (2007). An incredibly gentle and tender piece as a piano solo, the addition of light strings, flute and other instrumentation makes the emotions expressed even more affecting. "Crossing Over" first appeared on When All Is Quiet (2020), and beautifully conveys the mix of emotions we feel when someone we love passes away. The piano always stays in the foreground with the orchestration enhancing the spirit of the music. I really love this piece! "The End of the Road (Mabel's Song)" from Love's Light (2016) overflows with deep, poignant emotion with its gorgeous piano melody and light, evocative orchestration. "I'll See You Again" is also from When All Is Quiet. Although the meaning is obvious, the heartfelt love and sadness that flow through this music express so much more than words could ever say. "Stargazer (Stellar Version)" goes back to Joe's 2009 album, Mesmerized. The light, twinkling sound of wind chimes suggests stars in a dark, cloudless sky and adds sparkle to the ethereal voices, piano and orchestra in this peaceful, dreamy piece. "Call of the Canyon" is one of my favorites from Flight of a Dream, and the orchestration on this track adds even more poignance and intensity to this very special piece - my favorite on the album. "Taken," the third track from When All Is Quiet, seems to convey processing the loss, sadness and emptiness of losing someone very close to the heart. The cello in this piece really deepens those feelings.

I find it very easy to imagine Joe Sr. sitting on a cloud in heaven, smiling and telling the angels "that's my kid" as Synfonia II is playing for all to enjoy. This is an extremely personal yet universal expression of the power of love and I salute both Joe and Doug for creating such a great album! Synfonia II is available from JoeBongiorno.com, Amazon, Apple/iTunes and streaming sites like Spotify. Very highly recommended!
July 15, 2021
Contributing artists:
Doug Hammer
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