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Album Review: Stories From Portugal
Suzanne Herman
Cover image of the album Stories From Portugal by Suzanne Herman
Stories From Portugal
Suzanne Herman
2021 / Suzanne Herman Music
43 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Stories From Portugal is the fifth album of original piano solos by pianist/composer/educator Suzanne Herman. She released her first album, Lifeline, in 2018, but has been classified as a "professional musician" since she was 14. As the title indicates, the eleven piano solos on Stories From Portugal were inspired by travels throughout that country, its rich cultural traditions, the friendly people they met, and the country's natural beauty. There is a really nice variety in the music, but the album plays beautifully as a smooth, cohesive whole. With her extensive background and training, it's no surprise that Suzanne's music has a strong classical influence, and yet her music is very contemporary and accessible. The album was recorded and produced at Piano Haven in Sedona on Joe Bongiorno's incredible Shigeru Kawai concert grand, and the piano sound is gorgeous. A companion sheet music book is also available and is reviewed here on MainlyPiano.com.

Stories From Portugal begins with "Coimbra's Legacy," a light and breezy piece that celebrates the riverfront city that was once Portugal's capital. "Ancient Tapestries of Lamego" is much darker and more mysterious. It's also one of my favorites. What a wonder it must be to be in the presence of centuries-old tapestries, knowing that every stitch was made by hand. The music beautifully captures those feelings. "The Canyons of The Douro River" paints a lovely picture of quiet serenity and peaceful landscapes. "A Conversation Under the Stars" has a bright and lively right hand that I interpret to be the sparkling stars in the night sky, and a left hand melody in the lower half of the piano that feels more conversational. "Raymond's Theme" tells the story of someone who must be a very colorful character and fun to be around; he apparently has a more serious side, too! "Journeys, Encounters, and Unanswered Questions" is my favorite piece on the album. A fascinating variety of themes are woven together to express thoughts and emotional responses to people, scenery and events experienced on the trip. "Sparkling Iberian Sun" is sooooo peaceful and serene, bringing images of sunlight dancing hypnotically on the surface of a body of water - bliss! "Evening Lights and Daytime Shadows" continues with feelings of tranquility and pure contentment. "Calcada Portuguesa" refers to mosaic walkways made from small flat pieces of stone that are arranged in patterns or images and found in many pedestrian areas of Portugal. Played at a relaxed walking tempo, there are quite a few places where the piece slows - undoubtedly to stop and look around! Another favorite is "Approaching Sea Fog." Living on the Oregon Coast, fog is something very familiar in its many forms and densities as well as the easy way it moves. This piece describes all of that perfectly! "Bread Maker's Dance" ends the album much as it began - with a lighthearted musical snapshot of one of the highlights of the trip. After listening to this album, I hope to have the chance to visit Portugal myself sometime!

Stories From Portugal has been a wonderful introduction to Suzanne Herman's music as well as a colorful musical journey to another country. It is available from www.SuzanneHerman.com, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and several streaming sites including Spotify. Beautifully done!
April 13, 2022