Piano Improvisations, Volume 2 - Intermezzi
2019 / PCM
Review by Kathy Parsons
Piano Improvisations, Volume 2 - Intermezzi is a collection of thirteen solo piano improvisations by Peter Calandra, a composer and musician who has been immersed in the New York City music scene for most of his life. Where Piano Improvisations - Volume 1 (2018) was a collection of recordings made over a period of fifteen years, each piece on Volume 2 was conceived and recorded on Calandra’s own Yamaha C7 grand piano over the past year. The music ranges from reflective and meditative to energetic and playful, providing an always-fascinating tour through the mind (and fingers!) of a consummate musician. Due, at least in part, to his wide-ranging musical experiences, Calandra is comfortable with just about any music genre or style and his own musical voice is unique. This is the seventh of his albums that I’ve reviewed and they are all quite different from each other.
Calandra has scored more than 70 films and has written more than 2000 compositions for television as well as playing keyboards for a very impressive list of Broadway musicals. He is also on the faculty at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, CUNY teaching Audio/MIDI, Film Scoring and Music Composition to both graduate and undergraduate students.
Piano Improvisations, Volume 2 - Intermezzi begins with “Dawn In the Hudson Valley,” a lovely bit of musical peace and serenity. It is easy to picture the warm pastels of early morning as the world gradually awakens to a new day. I really love this one! The reflective “Stately and Kind” seems to be telling a story of a person or place with affection and fond memories. “Promenade” combines a classical style with jazz chords, alternating between the more formal classical and the freer jazz. The music of “Innocence” describes that quality beautifully - sweetness and purity. Played mostly in the upper registers of the piano, it’s another favorite. “The L Shaped Room” moves into a different direction that is both playful and lively while clearly demonstrating Calandra’s amazing piano chops. “Pure Heart” expresses some of the same feelings as “Innocence,” but in a different way. Wistful and dreamy, it flows from the heart. “Oslo” is more pensive and spare - another favorite. “Distant Days” is my favorite piece on the album. I really love the flow of this one and the way the melody alternates between the treble and the bass of the piano keyboard. “Doubled Fantasies” is an expansive 13-minute exploration of a musical idea that goes in many directions, effortlessly and with grace. Some passages are almost a whisper while others build to an intense level and then taper off. It’s interesting how Calandra expresses such freedom without letting the music spiral out of control or meander - a difficult balance that he has mastered.
Piano Improvisations, Volume 2 - Intermezzi is another work of art from one of the best. It is available from Amazon and iTunes/Apple Music as well as various streaming sites.
December 9, 2019