All The Best Returns
2022 / playMountain Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
All the Best Returns is a five-track EP from pianist/composer Robin Spielberg, an artist I've been reviewing since 1998 (when I started writing reviews) and met online in about 1993. Over the years, Robin has recorded a wide variety of music - from her own piano solos to classical favorites to show tunes and standards to Americana to holiday music and recently, "The Ukranian National Anthem" in support of the people of that country and their terrible struggle (included on this album). Robin and Louis Anthony deLise are currently orchestrating some of Robin's music for an album due to be released in 2023. Known for her very expressive piano touch and style, as well as for her vivid storytelling to introduce the origins of her music in concert, the five pieces on this album are quite different from each other and clearly indicate Robin's versatility at the piano. Her longtime fans will delight in this album and it's also a great place to start for those new to her music.
This quote from Robin explains the title and theme of the album: "For decades, I have signed my personal letters, 'All the best, Robin.' When we give one another birthday greetings, it is customary to wish one another 'many happy returns.' This album is my wish, in music, for the listener to enjoy many happy returns in their own lives."
All the Best Returns begins with "In Search of the Forest Fairy," a piece that starts out with a powerful piano fanfare befitting fairytale royalty. A variety of themes are then woven together that express a quiet sense of loss or melancholy, a playful dancelike theme that all but sparkles, a variation on the opening theme, the lively fluttering of wings as the fairy darts around the forest, and ending with a variation on the poignant second theme. I'd love to know the original inspiration for this piece. Or would I? I enjoyed making up my own! "One Step Closer" is slower and feels more deliberate, expressing patience and quiet determination while moving forward toward a goal. "All the Best Returns" is a warm and inviting slow waltz that is both dreamy and soothing. The sound of the vintage Steinway piano that Robin recorded the album with is especially well-suited to this gentle piece. I know Robin to be an avid gardener, and I suspect that "The End of Summer" is a sad good-bye to the active growing season, knowing that many of the lovely plants that have been so enjoyed will either go dormant or even die as the weather starts to chill. It's a gorgeous and very expressive piece and my favorite of the five on the album. Robin created a solo piano arrangement of "Shche ne Vmerla Ukrainy (the Ukrainian National Anthem)" and released it as a single in March 2022. Many of Robin's family members are from eastern Europe, and she arranged the anthem as a prayer.
It starts very quietly, gradually building in spirit and determination to a powerful and triumphant close.
All the Best Returns EP is available from Amazon and Apple/iTunes, and streaming sites like Spotify. The singles can be found on Bandcamp. Sheet music for all five pieces is also available from Robin's website. Highly recommended!
November 3, 2022