Opperman, Chris - Klavierst?cke

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Purple Cow Records
Catalog Number: PRCR003
Format: CD
Total Time: 47:21:00

To say that Chris Opperman's Klavierstücke is an album of solo piano pieces will leave you with the wrong impression. While there are some beautiful melodies, as one might find on a George Winston, David Lanz, or David Benoit album (just to name those that spring to my mind), one also finds a lot of discordant overlays -- not always for a pleasing effect. Overall though this is a lovely CD. If straight piano pieces are your thing, then tracks like "Sophia's Dream" will be to your liking. Though here, too, you get layers and the feeling that Opperman has more than two hands. If you are more into the avant-garde, then tracks like "Ballad For A Rainy Sunday Afternoon," or "Injun Joel" will be more to your liking. Which means, if you like both, you'll like them all. Truthfully, many of the pieces have qualities of both, and so making a clear demarcation is impossible. As I said, there was one piece that didn't entirely work for me, that was "Ballad For A Rainy Sunday Afternoon." The track does reflect rain, but the sharp, plunking tones are like very brief hailstone flurries (lasting only a few seconds). "Injun Joel" is a complicated track, where Opperman's hands climb over each other, while one hand reaches over there to plunk that note because this hand is busy over here...just don't ask him a question while he's playing, as in turning to look he'll tie himself in knots. The rhythm is at times jaunty, notes truncated and staccato. I'm not sure why, but Vladimir Horowitz came to mind...

That this isn't going to be your typical piano album is apparent with the first piece, "The Jeans of R. Mattoon," which is a discordant and slightly askew. Yet this is followed up by the subtle "T. Williams." Though the rhythm is quick and almost breathless, it is played in such an understated matter, as to create a distance between us and the subject. I wasn't sure if T was for Ted, but it turns out that T is for Tricia Williams, with whom Opperman has played, and both of whom have played with Mike Keneally, who produced both of Opperman's albums (this is his second). From this subtlety it grows strength, but this soon subsides, only to return again a few passages later... we are brought closer to our subject again. The idea for this album grew out of the responses Opperman was getting to "Sharel's Lullabye II," a piece on his first release, Oppy Music Vol. 1: Purple, Crayon (1998) (recorded when Opperman was 19. There's an interesting interview with Opperman at Ytsejam.com.

"Dance Of The B. Pastries," is dramatic, dark notes swirling behind the lighter notes. It is mere vignette at just over a minute long, but makes you want to see the movie that the music is soundtrack to. "Dodecahedron" is classic jazz in some parts and downright frenetic in others, as Opperman's fingers race across the keys, making the piano rumble with barely contained energy. Moments later, we get a playful figure with a bit of underlying menace. "An Anton Webern Moment" passes by in a flash - the timing says 10 seconds, but it is really only 4, the other seconds being the "empty space" between tracks. Of course, in doing a little research, I learned why it was brief and dedicated to Webern, Webern's own works were very brief -- according to the Webern page on the Emory University site, "'Six Bagatelles for String Quartet, Op. 9' last[s] only about 36 seconds per movement."

In this same spirit we get the "six little piano pieces" section that contains, well, six little piano pieces, most of which are under a minute, the last, "Crusade," being just over 2 minutes. These vignettes include "The Metamorphic Waltz" that begins stridently, but gives way to a more lyrical arrangement. This is picked up in "The 11th Evening" (though they were composed 2 years apart, this coming first). "Leave" is 16 seconds that sound more like someone who has just figured out that they can make sounds by depressing the keys, though it isn't as chaotic as that sounds.

"Melodious Monk" is a nice piece, though every once in a while there's a note that seems just a bit off... it's not the expected one, but off by tone or two. I wouldn't call it atonal exactly... This is followed by the lovely "H¨ggenkiss," which has such a warm, melodic tone -- yes, a sound that is evocative of its title. The bass rhythm seems a little too static, a little too perfect, such that it suggests to me that rather than having a third hand, Opperman is playing a high tech piano with presets. His instruments aren't mentioned, so I don't know if this is truly the case. "As If It Were Made Of Glass" is an often-fragile piece, like what one might expect from a solo piano album.

A further note, Mike Keneally, with whom Opperman has played, co-produced this release with Opperman.

But for the hailstones of "Ballad For..." I do like this release, and do recommend it to those who like piano based music. It takes that very genre along a new pathway, bringing something fresh to it.

The Jeans Of R. Mattoon (2:03) / T. Williams (7:16) / Ballad For A Rainy Sunday Afternoon (3:30) / Tunguska (1:08) / Sophia's Dream (5:31) / Injun Joel (5:52) / Dance of The B. Pastries (1:17) / Dodecahedron (2:39) / An Anton Webern Moment (00:10) / Six Little Piano Pieces: The Metamorphic Waltz (00:56) / The 11th Evening (00:47) / Indifference (00:29) / Hypocrisy (00:52) / Leave (00:16) / Crusade (2:19) / Melodious Monk (3:17) / Hüggenkiss (4:40) / ...As If It Were Made Of Glass (7:39)

Chris Opperman - piano

Oppy Music Vol. 1: Purple, Crayon (1998)
Klavierstücke (2001)
Concepts Of Non-Linear Time (2004)
Beyond The Foggy Highway (2005)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: September 8th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.myspace.com/chrisopperman
Hits: 608
Language: english


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