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Album Review: Lives
Kostas Boukouvalas
Cover image of the album Lives by Kostas Boukouvalas
Kostas Boukouvalas
2021 / Off
70 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Lives is the third recording from Greek pianist/composer (and primary school teacher!) Kostas Boukouvalas and follows his 2020 album, Memories From a Sea View, which was more of an ensemble work. A collection of seven large-scale compositions for solo piano, the music for Lives was inspired by seven different philosophical aspects of life. The bold and dramatic piano solos on Lives range from nine to thirteen minutes in duration and are quite different from each other. I would say that the music on this album is in a much more contemporary classical style than new age or music for relaxation, so don't expect to fall asleep to this one!

Based in Athens (Greece), Kostas Boukouvalas’ music has been utilized in amateur theater performances, short films, commercials and school plays. He has also been a member of various art and electronic music groups. In 2016, he founded “The Last of the Romantics,” an ensemble that performs his music in various art venues in Athens. 

Lives begins with "Epic as Life," a piece with a repeated pattern in the deep bass of the piano. Sometimes the right hand repeats the same pattern and sometimes it ventures into its own rhythmic or melodic lines. Quoting the liner notes: "Some lives of ordinary people are more epic than the greatest heroic deeds of history." The second movement changes to a different pattern in the bass that has a much livelier tempo and intensity. The last section of the piece quiets somewhat and seems to be looking inward before returning to the earlier theme and exploring that to the end.

The message in "Live What You Are" is: "The only way to happiness is to be yourself." Much lighter and more melodic, this piece has a beautiful dreamy, flowing quality that I really like. There are quite a few variations on the theme throughout the piece, and all are very sincere and expressed with candor. "Greek Dance for Life" comes with the quote: "Greek traditional music, as a whole, is a hymn to life." The piece begins very slowly with a strong rhythmic pattern supporting the very spare melody. About a third of the way into the piece, the tempo and spirit explode and all but dance out of the music player - a true celebration of life! "Half a Life after" is about reflecting back on what we have and have not accomplished in our lives. A bit gentler and more meditative, the haunting theme varies in intensity through its 11 1/2 minute playing time.

"Learning to Live" is quite different from the other pieces with a rapid left hand bass line that the right hand seems to dance around as it gradually moves up the piano keyboard (the left hand stays in the deep bass for all of the piece while the right hand eventually ends up in the high end of the keyboard). The meter for this piece seems to be constantly changing, much like the rhythm of life. "For the Joy of Living" was inspired by the quote: "We do not always have to set big goals to make our lives meaningful. Sometimes it is enough to just enjoy it." The main theme of this piece is transformed with variations that change in mood and intensity - a fascinating musical exploration!

If you are looking for music that is expressive and philosophical, Lives is a great choice! It is available from Amazon, Apple/iTunes and streaming sites such as Spotify.
December 13, 2021
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