2004 / Watermusic
Review by Kathy Parsons
Seasons is a beautiful collection of original pieces by pianist/composer Sydney Stevens. Some of the pieces are solo piano and others feature duets with Mitch Iimori on English horn, oboe, and guitar (but not all at the same time!). The two musicians are obviously exceptionally comfortable and in tune with each other, and the results can be stunning. Very classical in scope and structure, the music is reflective of the natural surroundings of Ms Stevens’ home in the Colombia Gorge region of northern Oregon. The first eight of the fourteen tracks make up the “Seasons Suite,” a group of lyrical compositions inspired by the various times of year in a remote area of eastern Oregon. The other six pieces also have themes of nature and serenity.
The “Seasons Suite” begins with “Colors Change,” obviously about the transition of summer into fall, but also about the concept of change as we grow. Reflective and subdued, the interplay between Stevens’ piano and Iimori’s English horn is effortless and flowing. “Autumn Wind” picks up the pace a bit, but continues the easy flow, bringing images of leaves swirling in the ceaseless wind of that area. “Signs of Winter” is a bit darker and more mysterious. Iimori is a big fan of Paul McCandless, and that musician’s influence is very strongly heard in these first three pieces - a very good thing! In “Clouds,” Iimori switches from English horn to oboe. This duet with the piano is a dramatic musical depiction of the gathering clouds and anticipation of a coming thunder storm. I really like it a lot! “Snow” is tranquility set to music. “Sparrow’s Song” brings us to the beginnings of spring - the freshness in the air, and the joyful songs of birds in the yard. “July” reflects the laziness of a hot summer day. “Season’s Reprise” brings together the themes from the various seasons, creating a lovely closing to the Suite. On “Summit,” Iimori trades his woodwinds for guitar in a gentle, sweeping duet with the piano. “Waning Star” is a gorgeous piano solo that has a peaceful grace and quiet serenity - a favorite. “Reach For the Stars” is a piano solo that has an uplifting sense of moving forward and reaching out. “Dawn” closes the CD with a warm and soothing confection. The piano is accompanied by light percussion, bass, and washes of synth strings. Full of hope and optimism without being sugarcoated, this piece is spellbinding in its gentle way.
Seasons is Sydney Stevens’ second of three releases. The other titles are “Dancers in the Rain” and “Portraits,” and all three releases are available from cdbaby.com. This is a beautiful CD that is elegant yet very accessible. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Sydney Stevens!
November 21, 2005