Harmony ‘(Performed by pianist Doeke)



Composer Karen LeFrak has released the first volume of a four-album project titled Interlude, distributed by Naxos Music Group. The first album, Harmony, released on March 5, 2021, consists of short pieces for solo piano performed by Jorn Swart under the name Doeke. Three other albums, titled Inspiration, Acknowledgement, and Clarity, will follow later in 2021.

LeFrak is known for her ballet scores and orchestral works, but she cited composers whose music is “direct, like Erik Satie” as inspiration for the new project. The relative simplicity and easy quality of these compositions reflect this perspective. Indeed, the opening piece’s initial major seventh chord, titled “Harmony”, can immediately recall Satie’s ever-popular. Gymnopedies. But LeFrak’s new piano compositions are influenced by broader traditions. This opening piece borrows chord changes from jazz and the Great American Songbook, and ends with a major chord but in a different key, giving it both a resolute aspect and an unresolved aspect.

In contrast, the next piece, “Interlude”, looks like a lullaby. Decorated with grainy suspensions, it carries a childish melody which, with Doeke’s plaintive touch on the keys, recalls Bill Evans in his “Waltz for Debby” mode.

“Quiet” evokes at least one pop song, although I cannot locate the exact reference. “Rest” has soft jazzy changes and a sinuous progression that surprises while soothing. The haunting “Peace” suggests how Sondheim could have written “Send the clowns” if he had lived in Schubert’s time. “Unity” develops by creating energy and hinting at tension under a graceful melody, while “Beauty” suggests Bartók’s children’s piano pieces (my favorites as a young piano student).

The album ends with tracks titled “Serenity” and “Grace”. The former is an easy minuet built on clusters of soft tones and a simple melody, while “Grace” has the rounded shadows (and grace) of a Chopin’s Nocturne. Thus, it completes the compact set with a suggestion that despite all the titles that evoke relaxation, there is darkness present and the story is not over. And of course, this is not the case, since there are three more volumes of music to come in the Interlude project.

These pieces are designed to produce an engaged state of relaxation. This is the kind of music that you can either let float in the background to help you reach such a state, or actively listen to and enjoy the art. It’s a nice tip.

Harmony is available at all major online retailers.

The Post Music Reviewer: Karen LeFrak, ‘Interlude, Vol. 1: Harmony ‘(Performed by pianist Doeke) first appeared on Blogcritics.

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