Field Journal: Piano Day 2022

Another Piano Day has come and gone and once again much has transpired on this planet during the trip it has taken around the sun since last year’s 88th day and not much of it has been good. For anyone new to the blog or not already familiar, Piano Day is a celebration founded on March 29, 2016 by Nils Frahm, one of the instrument’s foremost innovators, and which was quickly adopted worldwide by musicians and listeners alike.

In this journal post, we cast a spotlight on the official Piano Day, Vol. 1 compilation released by LEITER, a label founded by Frahm and his long-time manager Felix Grimm. It is a stunning collection featuring new pieces by 32 different composers from modern luminaries such as Frahm himself, Ólafur Arnalds, Lambert, and Poppy Ackroyd to rising stars like Rose Reibl, Büşra Kayıkçı, and Emilie Levienaise​-​Farrouch plus some delightful surprises like pioneering experimental electronic musician Kara-Lis Coverdale or genre-spanning instrumental duo Balmorhea.

Featured here are some wonderful selections which were released along with videos that enhance the song experience along with a handful of other piano pieces that made it another special Piano Day.

Top-to-bottom Left-to-Right: Simeon Walker, Natalia Tsupryk, Grace Ferguson, Julia Gjertsen, Michael Price, Vargkvint, Lisa Morgenstern, Vanessa Wagner, Paul Leonard-Morgan, Olivia Belli, Marcus Herne

Simeon Walker

film by Will Killen

The piano makes music via a mechanical process, but it becomes special when there is heart and soul and passion to take it beyond that. It is that special undefinable place where music speaks to us, something human, and I guess we need every reminder right now of what humanity can do that is good.

Simeon Walker

Simeon Walker’s peaceful “Reverie”, which he recorded on the same upright piano he learnt to play on as a child, can be heard in the background of this charming teaser video in which he eloquently summarizes what the day is all about.

Natalia Tsupryk – Elegy for Spring

Video by Ewa Smyk

“Elegy for Spring” is a deeply affecting piece by Ukranian-born composer and violinist Natalia Tsupryk that combines classical motifs with a haunting folk melody that strikes the heart strings with even more resonance along with this beautifully conceived animated video created by Ewa Smyk.

Grace Ferguson – Running breathlessly, not yet arrived

Video shot by Celeste de Clario

To be running breathlessly, but not yet arrived, is itself delightful, a suspended moment of living hope.”

Anne Carson

Australian multi-instrumentalist, composer and piano educator Grace Ferguson is filmed here performing her piece “Running breathlessly, not yet arrived”, an exhilarating meditation which she recorded after what she calls “a particularly memorable run”.

Julia Gjertsen – Runddans

“Runddans” is a buoyant piece by Julia Gjertsen, Russian-born musician and composer who grew up in the northern part of Norway which this video shows her performing at home. The title comes from the Norwegian word for round dancing, which she explains is also a term is also used to describe “a never ending process of something that hardly reaches any resolution” thus giving the song a double meaning.

Michael Price – When We Are Recombined

Emmy winning and BAFTA nominated composer Michael Price (Sherlock, Unforgotten, and more) is shown here performing a time-stopping one-take improvisation in the legendary Abbey Road Studios which he dubbed “When We Are Recombined”.

Vargkvint – Efterskalv

Stop motion animation: Sofia Nystrand

Summoning the landscapes and folklore of her native Sweden as Vargkvint, Stockholm-based multi-disciplinary artist Sofia Nystrand contributes the touchingly melancholic “Effterskalv” along with her own stop-motion video featuring a collection of photographs.

Lisa Morgenstern – Glass (Solo Piano)

German / Bulgarian pianist, singer and composer Lisa Morgenstern here performs an utterly mesmerizing solo piano version of her song “Glass” which she says “tells of the search for closeness and understanding for each other and the ability to forgive”.

Vanessa Wagner – Etude N°16 – Philip Glass

Directed by Thomas Rabillon

Straying now from the Piano Day compilation, here is a dazzling performance by renowned French pianist Vanessa Wagner of her interpretation of “Etude N°16” (Phillip Glass) from her new album Study Of The Invisible in which she introduces her audience to works from the ambient and electronic scenes including those composed by Suzanne Ciani, Harold Budd, and Brian Eno.

A heady sway, an intoxicating simplicity of theme, this study is magic: sad and sweet, simple and profound. My favourite of the entire volume of Philip Glass Etudes.

Study of the Invisible on InFiné:

Paul Leonard-Morgan – Tales From The Loop (Piano Day 2022)

Directed by Thomas Rabillon

It was a treat to revisit the soundtrack co-composed by Paul Leonard-Morgan and Phillip Glass for Tales from the Loop, a cerebral and emotionally resonant science fiction TV series based on the paintings of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag. Here Leonard-Morgan offers a special Piano Day 2022 in-studio performance of “Walk To School”.

Olivia Belli – Impromptu

Here we get a chance to enjoy a short but sweet visit with Italian pianist and composer Olivia Belli through he music video for her new single “Impromptu” on the heels of her wonderful full-length solo album Sol Novo which readers may recall featured in the 2021 edition of Journeys in Modern & Post Classical along with many other year-end round-ups.

Marcus Herne –

Finally, 88.II is a piece from a new artists to these pages, UK-based composer and sound artist Marcus Herne who uses distortion and compression in this boldly experimental effort to “capture and present the power and beauty of the piano”.