For nearly an hour, German keyboardist Hans-Joachim Roedelius runs up and down the keys of a Steinway grand piano, producing music that’s both lovely and accessible. This has much to do with the way Roedelius plays; the record comes off as somewhere in between strict composition and emotive improvisation. This avoids the obvious extremes of self-aggrandizing displays of virtuosity and haphazard spontaneity. Stylistically, his pieces are mostly built around chords and arpeggios, which makes the melodies, though predictable, very pleasant.
Though the recording is divided into 21 “parts,” the album plays like one continuous piece throughout. This flow makes the record easy to listen to, but also slightly confusing. The moody “Part 7” is preceded by the Victorian “Part 6,” and is followed by the bright “Part 8” (See a trend here?). So while each song flows somewhat neatly into the next, the record seems to tonally shift often without a particular aim. This perhaps provides a glimpse into Roedelius’ headspace as he plays—the record does sound something like background music to an unseen film. On the other hand, it makes the album feel like one long, unified piece full of uneven movements. Despite these tonal inconsistencies, Plays Piano is nonetheless a fine demonstration of Roedelius’ art, and it’s an equally fine way to spend a relaxing music afternoon.
// Notes from the Road
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