Una Corda Fantasia
2016 / Milana Zilnik and Artyom Tchebotaryov
Review by Kathy Parsons
Milana’s Una Corda Fantasia is a fascinating collection of fourteen original pieces inspired by playing German piano-maker David Klavins’ unique Una Corda piano. Working closely with pianist Nils Frahm, Klavins built this piano with an open design - no cabinet or case - and 64 individually-stringed keys (“normal” pianos have 88 keys with two or three strings for each key. “Una Corda” literally translates as “one string” and the una corda pedal on the piano is the soft pedal.). Milana recorded with Native Instruments’ virtual Una Corda which closely replicates the sound of the actual instrument. The sound is similar to the “prepared piano” Chad Lawson has used for his last couple of albums, muting the strings and capturing all of the sounds from the inside of the piano. The virtual instrument has the option of including the various “creaks and pops,” but Milana used that option sparingly, preferring a “cleaner” sound for most of the music. I do think the Una Corda piano has a more expressive sound since the strings are not muted - there just aren’t as many strings or as big of a soundboard. Milana likens the sound to a harp, but I think the Una Corda has a more colorful tone than most harps. Its shimmering quality lends itself especially well to New Age and experimental music, but Milana also uses it for a bluesy piece that sounds great. In Milana’s own words: “So, here I am, letting this enchantment touch the keys and create its magic, loving and improvisational, romantic and jazzy, with flowing arpeggios, minimal melodies and haunting New Age soundscapes.”
Una Corda Fantasia begins with “Shimmering Forest,” a magical and mysterious place where anything can happen. “Crystal Brook” sparkles and dances, and Milana’s occasional glissandos sound very harp-like on this piece. “Sunset Shore” is more minimal and very peaceful. I love “Savannah Blues,” a slow and slinky jazz piece imbued with more soul than I would have expected from this instrument (of course, the pianist has a lot to do with that!) - my favorite track. I also really like the rhythms, melody and pastel tones of “Distant Ocean” - another favorite. “Foggy Lake” beautifully captures the cool dampness and soft mystery of being out in a dense fog - enchanting and magical. The resonance and echoing effect of the instrument suggest a vast, darkly mysterious space in “Spellbound Wilderness.” “Lazy Meadows” is slow, peaceful, and very free - a lovely place to go to regroup! “Eternal Rainbow” floats on air with a gentle grace, bringing this exceptional album to a close.
Milana is a prolific and very creative artist who seems to find inspiration for her music wherever she goes. Una Corda Fantasia is experimental music that is warm and accessible, and also very beautiful. Very highly recommended!
March 6, 2016
with Stephan Beneking