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Friday, June 17, 2011

Josu De Solaun - In The Mist

Josu De Solaun - In The Mist
2011, Melos Records

Josu De Solaun moved to New York City from Spain at the age of 17 to pursue his dreams of a career in music.  The now 29 year-old De Solaun is a classical pianist with a fine ear and a level of technical proficiency that speaks of decades of training and hard work.  A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, De Solaun is a previous winner of First Prize at the I European Union Piano Competition, and winner of the First Grand Prize at the XV José Iturbi International Piano Competition.  Du Solaun has performed with as a soloist with major orchestras across Europe and North America, and perhaps most impressive, has won acknowledgements and praise from his peers in the classical world.  Jose Du Solaun's debut album, In The Mist, shows off both his technical abilities and his almost preternatural phrasing.

De Solaun opens with Alexander Skryabin's In The Mist, in four movements.  "Andante" starts as a gentle flow, growing in turbulence with the power of roiling waters before acquiescing again into a peaceful beauty.  De Solaun accomplished with a mix of dynamics and touch, using tension and drama to underscore the changes in volume much as an actor uses facial expressions and movement to underscore the drama of their lines.  "Molto Adagio" has a dreamy, pastoral nature.  De Solaun sets the mood and controls the musical flow with apparent ease, hinting occasionally at turbulence with subtle yet powerful derivations that quickly evaporate into air.  "Andantino" is sweet and lulling, but occasionally erupts into an emotional outburst that is quickly quelled by its softer natures.  Its thought blended with passion that quickly succumbs to the beauty of logic.  De Solaun's phrasing here is impeccable, capturing each nuance of color and emotion and channeling into the ears of the listener with an apparent ease that is unsettling.  "Presto" shows a distinctive lyricism in De Solaun's play; having an almost ballet-like feel.  De Solaun builds dramatically into turbulence and darkness, with runs thundering down like a downpour.  The turn from darkness to light is well-played, announcing the end of the storm and a coming full circle.  De Solaun's interpretational style and execution will leave you breathless.

Maria Agata Szymanowski's "Scheherazade", from her Masques, Op. 34, is expansive and complex in its meandering style and contemplative air.  Se Solaun culls the nearly eleven-minute composition for tension and drama with an emotive playing style that makes the most of the work.  Szymanowski's "Scheherazade" is a difficult work for any pianist, calling for intense contrasts in subtle musical colors to avoid falling into aimlessness.  De Solaun surfs these waters better than most.

Leos Janacek's Piano Sonata, Op. 23 is up next, presented in four movements that sound as if they were written for Josu De Solaun to play.  "Drammatico" opens with flair, moving through pensive, rich passages into an air of uncertainty; as if Janacek and De Solaun are finding their way together.  De Solaun's showmanship is very much intact, but it is the subtlety of phrasing that impresses most here.  "Allegretto" is dark and vibrant; music written for action that sounds like a grand ballet at times.  De Solaun punctuates the subtleties of the melody with a heavy left hand that drives the movement.  "Andante" brings listeners close to the living, breathing performer in a performance that is all in.  Like following a trickle to a brook to a stream, De Solaun builds a lovely and lyric theme in intensity with a light energy that runs to the core of the music.  The movement, and resulting moment, are a thing of beauty.  "Presto Con Fuoco" is dark and manic in the opening moments, with a urgent, overflowing energy that is compelling.  The piece sounds almost rushed at times, but that works to reinforce the overall atmosphere.  The composition is messy at times, but De Solaun interprets well, working through cascading runs and lyric passages to build a sense of movement that is palpable.

Freidrich Chopin's "Nocturne In B. Major, Op. 62, Nr. 1" is utterly gorgeous in De Solaun's hands; full of a quiet power and grace.  The phrasing here is impeccable.  De Solaun closes with the second movement from Gian Francesco Malipieri's Preludi Autumnali, "Ritenuto Ma Spigiliato", a beautifully understated number played with a light touch.  De Solaun tickles the keys like the subtle twinkling of starlight; a tender goodnight, a lullaby, and an apt bit of closure for a sensational overall effort.

In The Mist serves as a document for one of the bright young not-quite-yet-stars of the classical piano.  Josu De Solaun has the talent to one day be named amongst the best pianists of his generation, showing equal ease amongst Slavic, Austro-German and Italian classical styles, and a talent for phrasing that is rare.  It's all a matter of time and of being heard.  In The Mist will certainly accomplish the later, and may well shorten the former.  The album is brilliant.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Josu De Solaun at  In The Mist is available digitally from and iTunes.

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