Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Silent Star

Bernward Koch

Real Music

 2011

www.bernwardkoch.de

www.realmusic.com

 

 

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I had high hopes for Bernward Koch's new album, ‘Silent Star’, after thoroughly enjoying the magnificent ‘Montagnola’ album (released by Erdenklang in 2008). I am pleased to report I was not to be disappointed.

‘Silent Star’ is Bernward's fifth release for Real Music. The quality of the recording is, as is synonymous with Real Music, top-notch. The album, running to almost an hour in duration, is dedicated to the 19th. century pioneer and visionary aviator Otto Lilienthal, the legendary figure behind the development of the hand-glider. If Lilienthal got his kicks from soaring effortlessly through the sky as gracefully as migrating birds, he would surely also give a passing wave of approval to this beautiful collection of mainly piano pieces... music that lifts the spirits and takes the listener on their own special journey.

The CD opens with the majestic ‘The New Day’, destined to be a Koch-classic from the very first listen! Like a bird's unfurling wings, the listener embarks on a voyage of discovery. There is a quieter middle section, before the journey continues to its conclusion.

‘Softly Awakening’, as the title would suggest, is a very gentle piece- slow tempo- but very sublime. It has the Koch trademark sound with which his fans will instantly identify. There is an ethereal quality to Bernward's compositions, and none more so than this one!

‘Le Petit Jardin’ is one of my favourite cuts on the entire CD. Extremely melodic and a joy from beginning to end! If the title conjures up an image of a gentle, meandering walk through a summer-inspired garden, then the tender, heart-felt melody will merely confirm your initial impression.

‘She’ is another delicate piano piece, as soft as Spring's blossom, or maybe the Summer breeze passing by Lilienthal as he takes to the air.

Track five, ‘Distant Memories’ is my top-pick track, and it is an unusual choice for me as it is the only piece on the entire CD with the absence of piano / keyboard (save for a sprinkling of notes towards the end)! It is the sort of composition the Greek maestro Vangleis might create, and I have already mentally penned the remixed version, which involves the introduction of drums half-way through! It's a fascinating piece, with the accordion taking the lead. I absolutely adore it! Maybe I can just add my own drumming to the piece as the composition takes a more dramatic turn, or perhaps Bernward will have some late-evening fun in the recording studio! Anyway, it's over to Bernward to fill in the reader with additional compositional details pertaining to this terrific track: "I did not want it to sound like a real accordion. Quite accidentally, I found a preset sound on my Korg Trinity Plus 'Master Fisa'. I improvised with that at the same time I composed the track. It is enriched with more instruments like Yamaha MO6 (pad) and DX-711D (harp), Roland Alpha Juno 2 (pipe) and D-50 (pad), Korg EX8000 (pad) and MicroKorg (strings), VST-plugins, Atmosphere and Kompakt sampler (both as special pad) and, at the end, a Grand Piano (Yamaha CP-50)."

Touchingly, the track is in memory of Bernward's father (1923 - 1973) who played the accordion.

‘Silent Star’ is the title track, and is made for relaxation. Glance at the album's cover whilst listening to this inspiring track, and drift away into your dreams.

The tempo increases with ‘Café Noir’. Highly melodic and instantly appealing this arpeggio track reminds me of the sound of Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi. The piece is mainly piano, with two beautiful sections combining piano with stringed instruments, including cello- a match made in heaven. It's another outstanding track for me on this album which is packed with highlights. Bernward explains, "Café Noir is the name of a beautiful café in my area, in a tiny but beautiful village. It's a rebuilt barn with a little stage for minor arts. I have often played at this place." Bernward used a Yamaha CP-50 piano, along with Yamaha MO6 and Roland D-50 as pad, Yamaha DX-7IID Bass, Korg Trinity pan-pad, Kontakt organ, Halion one cello and Roland Juno2 cembalo.

‘Vision Emerging’ has quite a dramatic opening; perhaps it is Lilienthal's sudden realisation that his idea is set to become reality. The track develops into another sublime piece.

‘Harmony Found’ is quite an up-beat, feel-good piece of music with a jolly melody and a playful piano. It features a catchy melody, and you might well find yourself whistling along on this part of the journey.

Track ten is entitled ‘The Colour of Spring’. The music suggests nature awakening after its Winter slumber, and new life emerging. Bernward's gift for creating melodic compositions once again shines through with this lovely piece.

‘Anthem’ is another inspiring track, and I can imagine this making a super soundtrack for established or aspiring film-makers. The middle section of the piece is utterly beautiful- very simple, but therein lies its appeal.

The intriguingly titled ‘Ice Flowers’ opens with a shudder! It has a mysterious, almost haunting, ghost-like quality to it. Film-makers again take note! Perhaps some of that ice melts away as the piece develops. Bernward states that the track title just came to him upon completing the recording of this piece, and indeed ‘Ice Flowers’ was nearly chosen as the album's name by Real Music.

‘Remember Blue’, the album's penultimate track, is certainly different! With a distinctive beat, this one has a light-jazz feel to it. Listen to it with a glass of your favourite tipple as the sun sets and the moon rises in the night sky.

‘Shades of Rain’ returns us to more familiar territory, and closes the album perfectly with a lovely, reflective piece.

Bernward Koch has excelled himself once more. He has created a wonderful album of beautifully melodic piano and keyboard music which lifts the spirits as much as Lilienthal's wings lifted him into the air. It is worth noting that the German composer plays all the instruments featured on this CD; Bernward is truly a multi-instrumentalist.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album, and give it my highest recommendation. Fans of inspiring, relaxing and original piano music will find much of appeal on Bernward's latest flight of magic.  

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Star

Bernward Koch

 

Bernward Koch

 

 

Germany's Otto Lilienthal in flight

 

 

 

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