Review: Daniela Mastrandrea’s Lo Specchio

I wrote a few days ago about Italian pianist, composer and arranger Daniela Mastrandea and her new album released later in May. The post generated a surprising amount of interest (always nice). As promised, here’s a fuller review of the entire album.

I’ve resisted listening to it until the past couple of days. I’d first thought that was down to me just being busy and disorganised. It now turns out I was doing myself a disservice (albeit privately). I think there might have been a different reason I’d held off from listening more intently to it – because it’s effect is crucifying on those of us treading the emotional high-wire.

On the one hand, her music’s simplicity tricks the listener into thinking what’s on offer is superficial. But, Daniela’s music illustrates her love of soulful and wistful melody. There’s a playful wizardry to her harmonic development meaning that listener expectations are subverted and the material always feels fresh. It is the way my assumptions are challenged in every track that makes this album a fascinating listen.

Be warned, this is undoubtedly music that will root out any underlying emotional instability and heave it out onto the table in front of you rendering you incapable of performing any of the more basic day-to-day functions.

In that way Lo Specchio is a surprisingly tough listen. But there is a narrative arc to the album which takes the listener on a surprising journey.

After the heartbreak in the title track, Dopo la tempesta purrs gently with a sweet and realistic kind of optimism. What’s at stake is revealed in Dentro me (this is the one to approach with care), after which the (lonely) developmental journey beings with Demos and progresses in La città dorme. Shifting restless harmonies abound in A testa bassa (released on 11th May), and a partial sense of triumphant in the gentle syncopation of Luce ovunque. From there on the music cycles through Sati- esque, Bach-chorale inspired tracks that edge us towards an uneasy resolution in the beautiful prayer Mare dentro.

Personally, this is where I would have liked the album to come to an end. The remaining three tracks – What Lovers Do, All Fall Down, and Too Good at Goodbyes – felt like slightly different material. A kind of epilogue to the main narrative, set in a future.

What I especially like as I listen to this, is the way the music feels as though its something I want to play. And something that I want to play. And it turns out that’s something of a strategy, I suspect. The sheet music is available for purchase on Daniela’s website. Canny.  

Daniel Mastrandrea‘s album Lo Specchio is released on 18th May. In addition to the title track already available on pre-release, A testa bassa will be available from 11th May.

The Thoroughly Good Blog is an independent blog celebrating classical music and the arts. Please consider supporting its development in 2018 by giving a donation using this PayPal.

First track from pianist and composer Daniela Mastrandrea’s new album Lo Specchio released

Italian pianist and composer Daniela Mastrandrea has a new album (available digital only) coming out on 18th May. The first track – Lo Specchio (The Mirror) – was released via Spotify yesterday. Take a listen.

I’ll be posting a longer post about the entire album later in the week. The but the opening track is so deceptively charming that I couldn’t really wait.

There’s a hint of the West End about Lo Specchio. It’s a rather sweet thing with a pleasing feel reminiscent of Somewhere That’s Green from Little Shop of Horrors. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. 

The Thoroughly Good Blog is an independent blog celebrating classical music and the arts. Please consider supporting its development in 2018 by giving a donation using this PayPal.

Jackie Campbell wins BBC Young Musician 2016 Keyboard Category Final

15-year-old pianist Jackie Campbell from Salford has won the Keyboard Category Final and secured a place in the Semi-Final of BBC Young Musician 2016.

The other category finalists were Yuanfan Yang (19), Tomoka Kan (17), Jackie Campbell (15), Julian Trevelyan (17) and Harvey Lin (13).

The five Category Finals were staged at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. The Semi-Final of BBC Young Musician will be broadcast on Saturday 7 May on BBC Four followed by the Final on Sunday 15 May from the Barbican, London and will be broadcast on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3.



BBC Proms 2013: Prom 10 / Schumann Piano Concerto / Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 / Jan Lisiecki / Antonio Pappano

Prom 10 saw Antonio Pappano make the first two Proms appearances this year with the Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia in a safe programme of Mozart’s Haffner, the piano concerto by Schumann and Rachmaninov’s second symphony.

Top-billing and recipient of much well-deserved applause was soloist Jan Lisiecki who at only 18 years old demonstrated remarkable maturity in Schumann’s lyrical melodies. Fantastically fluid lines showed Lisiecki’s effortless delicate touch. A joyously exuberant third movement helped cement Lisiecki’s Proms debut as another season high-point and far and away the best piano concerto performance too.

In stark contrast, Pappano’s Rachmaninov was a hollow affair. Gone was the usual lush string sound. In its place, a much dryer string section which although on the whole was a successful stylistically, the dry sound exposed brief moments of instability between wind and strings which didn’t appear to get resolutely ironed out until the tempestuous second movement. From then on, the strings’ masterly articulation did them proud.

Even so, the necessarily strung-out longing seemed to be missing from the expansive legato sections of the often-rushed third movement (the viola ‘stings’ perhaps marked as to make them more memorable than decorative), making the subsequent fourth more of mad sprint to the end than the tension-reliever it usually feels like.