Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Adagio

Chris Spheeris and George Skaroulis

Essence Recordings

 2001

www.chrisspheeris.com   www.evzonemusic.com

 

 

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Around ten years ago, Greek-born Chris Spheeris and his friend George Skaroulis embarked on a memorable collaboration; George, working alongside Chris, recorded his own interpretations of the much-revered music of his friend. The two clearly have a mutual respect for one another, and with Chris's ear for melody, and George's unique touch on the piano, it is not difficult to see why. 

Chris has been part of the New Age circuit since its inception, with numerous CD releases and documentary film scores. Self-taught, he cites musical influences of the highest calibre: Vangelis, Brian Eno, The Beatles and Debussy- quite a diverse range! George is also self-taught, with no formal training in piano or theory. He began playing the piano at the tender age of five. Listening to this recording, it is amazing that George taught himself- his timing and touch are both impeccable, but maybe it is for this very reason that this is so: no one has moulded him into playing in a certain way or a particular style. This ‘freedom’ has given him a unique voice in a saturated market. George also cites fellow-Greek Vangelis as an inspiration, along with Yanni (George was inspired by the audience's reaction to the Greek composer's wonderful music at a concert he attended) and fellow pianist Jim Brickman (try listening to ‘Gone’- this artist's most well-known composition). Both men now live in America, but it is interesting to read about the respect they have for their Native countrymen.

The piano used in this recording is of the highest quality; it produces a beautiful and crystal-clear sound.

The CD opens with ‘Love and Understanding’, a fitting title where two artists are required to work so closely together on a project. It immediately becomes clear that George is a gifted pianist. In a pattern that's repeated throughout the CD, George puts his own take on a great composition by Chris, very much making it his own. The end result is a melodic four-and-a-half-minute track which is every bit as gentle as the title would suggest.

George's delicate touch on the piano is never more evident that on the gorgeous ‘Field of Tears’. Something that comes through very clearly with all the music on this album is the respect he gives to Chris's original compositions. These are not merely piano interpretations; each piece has been lovingly embraced by George, and this is evidently music that comes from his heart. ‘Field of Tears’ most definitely comes straight from there.

A favourite piece on this superb album is ‘Where the Angels Fly’, featuring a beautiful melody. As this, and many of the other track titles would suggest, the end result is extremely graceful. The word ‘gorgeous’ does not do justice to this piece.

I'm unsure as to the origins of Track four, ‘Magaya’. It could refer to the renowned Zimbabwean mbira player and teacher Cosmas Magaya (a mkira is a traditional wooden board with metal keys). Regardless of the inspiration of the title, the ensuing piano music develops into a wonderful melody that I could listen to all day. Simply exquisite!

‘Guardians of the Rock’ is a short piece which again showcases George's ambient piano playing, and this leads on to another pick from the album: ‘Walk With Me’. This is a gentle stroll somewhere romantic, with the sun setting at the end of a perfect day. It is a stunning piece, and I quite simply love it!    

The soothing, calming and heavenly compositions continue one by one throughout the rest of the album, starting with ‘Pavane’, probably a version of the composition of the same name by the great French composer Gabriel Fauré, and continuing with another highlight for me with the slightly more upbeat ‘Elektra’. After an uplifting opening, the piece's tempo slows down and what follows has quite a classical, but highly appealing feel to it.

‘Andalu’ captures the beauty of Southern Spain (another guess at the origins of the track!) but wherever this may be, it is a place that clearly must be visited. ‘Golden Days’ is a feel-good piece, reflective and very positive featuring yet another memorable melody.

There then follows a tribute to Ancient Greek history, with a composition entitled ‘Eros’- the God of love and beauty, and there is plenty of both of those qualities in this piece.

‘Quiver‘ has a very delicate opening, which is followed by a free-flowing composition which is more upbeat than most of the other tracks on this album.

The tempo slows right down for Track thirteen, ‘Enchantment’, and enchanted would be a fine choice of word to describe this lovely piece. It is followed by ‘Juliette’, who I imagine to be every bit as beautiful as the composition she is obviously named after.

The penultimate track on this outstanding album is ‘Slow Dance’. A slow tempo again for this lovely piece, and I think this would make a wonderful piece for a ballerina; ballet teachers take note!

Adagio concludes with ‘Invisible Hands’- a gentle, reflective piece which brings the album to close perfectly.

Adagio is a superb collection of sixteen solo-piano compositions, and for those that like melodic, relaxing piano music perfectly played on a gorgeous sounding piano, then this is most definitely the album for you.

I give it my highest recommendation. πολύ ωραίος!

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adagio

Chris Spheeris & George Skaroulis

 

Chris Spheeris

 

 

 

George Skaroulis