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Album Review: Petits Reves Bizarres I-XII
Milana Zilnik and Stephan Beneking
Cover image of the album Petits Reves Bizarres I-XII by Milana Zilnik and Stephan Beneking
Petits Reves Bizarres I-XII
Milana Zilnik and Stephan Beneking
2013 / Milana
55 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Petits Reves Bizarres I-XII is the first of two collaborations by Canadian pianist/composer Milana and Berlin composer Stephan Beneking. Beneking composed a series of twenty-four “Petits Reves Bizarres” (“Strange Little Dreams”) for solo piano in 2011-12 and offers them (and his other sheet music titles) for free on his website (beneking.com). Very classical and melodic, most of these pieces are one page, with the longest being three pages and the shortest being ten bars. On this recording, Milana plays each piece as written and then improvises on each one, creating a “best of both worlds” kind of partnership. Musically, the results are stunning. Milana is an amazing pianist and improvisor, and her own compositions are gorgeous, expressive and very passionate. Those qualities come through Beneking’s music as well, as Milana has obviously made these lovely vignettes her own. The second volume of this collection is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2013.

It is interesting to note that Beneking does not include tempo indications, expression instructions, or dynamics in his sheet music as he wants each pianist to find his or her own voice within his music and to express it as part of a creative process. There is a huge amount of sheet music on his site that pianists can download legally AND with the composer’s blessing! Check it out, pianists and piano students!

The original music for “Petit Reve Bizarre #1” is rather stately and straight-forward while Milana’s improvisation is more flowing and expressive yet remains true to the theme. #2 is built on continuous RH triplets, which could become a bit pedantic in the wrong hands. Milana’s improv continues with the non-stop triplets, but she puts so much expression into her playing that it isn’t noticeable unless you really listen for it. #4 is one of my favorites. The original is a mere ten bars long but overflows with emotion and Milana’s expansion on the theme goes right to the heart - truly a musical gem! #8 is another favorite. Mysterious and a little bit ominous, I love the minor key magic of this piece! #10 is delicate and almost fragile at the beginning, gathering strength as the improvisation evolves and then ending quietly. #11 is something of a minor-key waltz that swirls and dances around the piano keyboard. In her improvisation, Milana injects a variety of musical styles - rock, jazz, classical, etc. Fun! #12 is my favorite of the bunch with its simple, haunting melody and Milana’s beautifully nuanced performance - breathtaking!

What a delight it has been to discover three new favorites in the past few days - Milana’s playing, her original music, and now Stephan Beneking’s music! Milana is a true artist and I hope many others will discover her music and help spread the word. This is some great stuff! Petits Reves Bizarres I-XII is available from Amazon and iTunes. Very highly recommended!
August 20, 2013
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Kathy's Favorites: 2013
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