Veins_Cover_3000pxBorn in East Berlin to actor Klaus-Peter Thiele and painter Rosemarie Rautenberg, Valeska Rautenberg grew up living and breathing creativity and has followed that path throughout her life. She started working as an actress at the age of eleven and continued starring in movies and television shows on & off while at school and later during university. During her teen years, however, she discovered music was her true love and since then she has engaged in all aspects of it as an instrumentalist, singer, composer, producer, and teacher.

Rautenberg has also performed in a wide array of settings from pubs & underground clubs to gala events and major venues, but her latest release is an especially personal and intimate one. Part of a series of releases that began in 2017 after taking some time off to tend to her personal life, Veins (Songs for Piano, Wind, & Water) is a collection of four beautiful piano-based vignettes inspired by early morning walks on the streets of Berlin and being attuned to sounds that can easily be drowned out when the city is bustling.  Continue reading “Video Premiere: “Wandering” by Valeska Rautenberg”

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After a little winter hibernation, things are beginning to spring to life over at 1631 Recordings, one of my favorite contemporary classical labels since its inception. In addition to three releases announced in conjunction with Piano Day 2019, the label will be bringing us a collection of brand new reworks of material from Jakob Lindhagen‘s ‘Paces which was originally released in late 2017 (read the ST review here).  While Lindhagen successfully etched the quintessence of long Scandinavian nights into each of the album’s austere, delicate compositions, these carefully curated reworks reveal how just how adaptable they are to new ideas and constructions.  Continue reading “Premiere: Jakob Lindhagen – In The Machinery (Aisling Brouwer Rework)”

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Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Jacob Pavek began his journey as a modern classical recording artist in 2012 with his acclaimed debut album Bloom. He followed that up in 2015 with a moving collection of tender solo piano pieces and duets with violinist Leah Ottman entitled Illume on Unperceived Records as well as a soundtrack to the Emmy-nominated documentary ‘Hello, Montevideo‘ which showed his more kinetic, electronic side. Pavek returned to the label this year with a gorgeous and emotionally resonant new release called Nome which finds his grand piano still at the heart of his work along with violin performed by Josh Misner (Laurels String Quartet).

I am very grateful Jacob found the time to talk to us a little bit about the new album, his creative process live and in studio, and the growing indie classical scene both locally & abroad. Continue reading “Duologue: A conversation with Jacob Pavek”

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 photo by Arūnas Naujokas on Unsplash

This special edition of The Listening Room features the Soundcloud selections playlist compiled from the many wonderful tracks uploaded for Piano Day 2019. You can also find recommended piano recordings released earlier this year by Hauschka, Adrian LaneBruno Sanfilippo, Julien Marchal, Bruno Bavota, Tom Blankenberg, and Lullatone as well as Piano Day releases by Mikael Lind, Akira Kosemura, Kyle McEvoy, and Garreth Broke. Finally we’ll peek ahead with previews of upcoming albums by Alex KozobolisJohannes Hirschmann, Tristan Eckerson, and Tom Adams. It is nothing less than a movable feast for piano music lovers. Happy listening!

Continue reading “The Listening Room (Piano Day 2019)”

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Minneapolis composer Chris Bartels has been writing ambient music under the name Elskavon for a decade and this past year was arguably one of his most productive with the release of Skylight and numerous collaborations and work supporting the burgeoning indie classical scene in the area along with artists like Jacob Pavek, Philip Daniel, and John Hayes. Not only that, but the Bora York indie pop project fronted by Bartels and wife Rebekah are in the process of developing a new album as well.  Sounds like more than enough to keep even the most restlessly creative musician busy, does it not? Yet, somehow Bartels has found the time & energy to put yet one more iron in the fire with Blurstem.

The project was born as a piano-centric offshoot of Elskavon. Chris and Rebekah were gifted an old spinet piano when they bought a house in 2015. Always slightly out of tune, a little dusty sounding, and very much imperfect, the instrument had a character that Chris wanted to explore. He cut up an old sweater and taped it to the strings, so as to avoid waking up their children at night and ended up writing so many new songs on this spinet that he felt the need to start a whole new project.  Fittingly, the first single from the album that resulted is premiered here on Piano Day.

Continue reading “Premiere: Rubrik by Blurstem + Brique A Braq”

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Philip Daniel Zach is a composer, pianist, and teacher from Lincoln, Nebraska who provides further evidence of a burgeoning indie classical scene in the heartlands of America that includes other artists featured on these pages such as Jacob Pavek, John Hayes, Jameson Nathan Jones, and Chris Bartels (Elskavon, Blurstem).  Under the name Philip Daniel, Zach has just released his third record in as many years which finds him once again teaming up with Nashville-based composer & violinist Shawn Williams. Unlike last year’s This Tree Is Made For Climbing, however, their latest collaboration makes a notable shift away from structured narrative composition and toward exploratory improvisation.

Continue reading “Philip Daniel & Shawn Williams – Between Us Ch.1”

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Vargkvint is the project of Sofia Nystrand which she named after a dissonant musical interval known as the “wolf fifth” due to its howling properties. It is a name which perfectly evokes the enigma of her spellbinding sound which offers sweet enchantment permeated with the aura of forces both ancient and primal. Her debut EP Brus took us deep into the forests and folklore of her native Sweden and on her first full-length record entitled Hav, she turns her focus to the sea. Having grown up in a small coastal city, it is an environment Nystrand knows well for all its allure, mystery, and power all of which she seeks to capture on the new record.

”The sea has played such a huge part for us, in how societies have formed and grown, it has connected us with each other and given us life, and is the base behind much of our mythology. But at the same time, it has been a really cruel mistress – its storms, tsunamis and rising sea levels have been devastating to individual lives, whole societies and now humanity as a whole. It’s in that conflict – its beauty and its menace, its life-giving and its life-taking, this concept-album was created”Sofia Nystrand 

Continue reading “PREMIERE: “Drivved” from Hav by Vargkvint”

20190223_matineeThis travelogue introduces some wonderful recent & upcoming modern classical releases showcased through a collection of new videos. Featuring Hania, Rani, Flying Hórses (Jade Bergeron), Nico Casal, Erland Cooper, Peter Sandberg, and Aukai.

Continue reading “Travelogue 2019.02.23: Saturday Matinee”

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Thresholds is the 6th studio album from SASO, a project formed in Dublin, Ireland in 2000 by composer & multi-instrumentalist Jim Lawler and producer/recording engineer Ben Rawlins and one which extends the duo’s collaboration with pianist Kevin Corcoran first heard on Mysterium (2016). The inspiration for the record came from the passing of Jim’s father, Brian Lawler, a musician and composer himself, and it was after his funeral that Jim and Ben began talking about creating compositions that would reflect the cycle of life and the journey to death. To do this, they decided to “go back to basics” and make a purely instrumental album using strings and piano while relying exclusively on vintage analog equipment to facilitate a minimal approach to recording and mixing while capturing most of live sessions in a single take.

“We wanted to press the reset button. We took everything we knew and put it to one side and embarked on a new chapter…We embraced the discipline of restriction so we could focus on the art rather than the convenience of technology. It felt like an antidote to modern digital production”Ben Rawlins, SASO

Continue reading “SASO – Thresholds [Melted Snow]”