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Ola Gjeilo: Piano Improvisations Blu-ray Audio Review

 


The Performance

[Rating:4/5]

Ola Gjeilo is a young (34 year-old) Norwegian composer who has taken graduate studies at Julliard and now lives in the United States. While he has written pieces for voice and orchestra, this latest 2011 recording focuses on solo piano with occasional pieces for two or three pianos (all played by Gjeilo). In his liner notes, he describes his compositional process as more a series of improvisations of which the first three Ubi Caritas, Tota Pulchra Es, and Prelude, are based on his choral works. Several pieces reference US locations (Biltmore Shrine, Little Rock, Nebraska, Santa Monica, The Great Plains) and one, Bach Fantasy, has clear linkage to the master’s work (Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring).  In all, we get eighteen relatively short studies that are in a style that would be filed under “new age,” a la George Winston.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

2L (Lyndberg Lyd) is a well respected label in the audio industry for its outstanding technical productions. Recorded in an acoustically favorable church setting in Oslo, we are treated to very clear piano sound with a fair amount of natural reverberation. The multiple piano pieces are very well balanced. The original recording was done at 352.8kHz/24-bit and then mixed down to the BD and SACD versions. The multichannel hybrid-layer SACD also gives a very good account of this music. The mShuttle program offers downloads as FLAC (192/24 or 96/24) or MP3.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

The rating is based on the additional high-resolution multi-channel SACD included in this package. There is also a booklet with liner notes about Gjello and this program.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

When I think of piano improvisers, the legendary Keith Jarrett comes immediately to mind for jazz fans, and newcomer Gabriela Montero for the classical audience. Based on my impressions from Gjeilo’s previous “Northern Lights” choral CD, I had pretty high expectations for the current release.  This recital offers some very listenable, if not particularly stimulating music, that would make for a nice sonic background in anyone’s living room. The judicious use of multiple pianos does break up the monotony of a single instrument and creates some interesting sound pictures. What I miss in this well-recorded audio BD is the unexpected moves that make Jarrett such an arresting composer/performer, and the cleverness that is the signature of the Montero approach.  Since the artist/composer Gjeilo reveals that improvisation is the path that he will pursue in the future, I would offer the modest suggestion that Ola take greater risks with his free form music. Given his obvious talent, I am certain that this would give us some great music.

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Purchase Piano Improvisations on Blu-ray Audio/SACD at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

 


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