It came as no surprise for me to discover that composer Mathieu Karsenti is also a visual artist, whose abstract work reflects the movement, layers, counterpoint and rhythm of music.
His music is often multi-layered and contrapuntal, abstract yet tonal, exploring sonic colours, timbres and textures to create atmospheric, evocative pieces. His new EP, Under Piano Skies, offers the listener a selection of “internal musical landscapes” inspired by weather and the sky. Performed by pianist Marie Awadis, the four pieces on this album reference clouds, weather and sky while taking the listener to abstract realms and places for reflection and pause.
Throughout Karsenti, capitalises on the piano’s resonance and sustaining abilities to create atmospheric washes of sound and colour, the edges between notes and chords often blurred, like a watercolour painting. In some instances, echo and sound effects are added to enhance the piano sound, but in general the instrument’s own sonic capabilities are sufficient to achieve the composer’s intentions. ‘Virga’, a piece which starts simply, with two voices, grows increasingly florid with the introduction of repetitive semi-quaver triplet figures over low, sustained chords. With generous use of the pedal, a dramatic resonance and vibration is created, redolent of Somei Satoh’s extraordinary ‘Incarnation II’, before reverting to the simplicity of the opening.
‘Cerulean’, by contrast, uses a minimal amount of notes, carefully chosen and meticulously organised, to create a work of meditative qualities, its serenity only occasionally disturbed by unexpected harmonies or piquant note blends.
‘Petrichor’, named after the word for that special smell of pavements after rain and including sound effects of rainfall at the opening and close of the piece, is similarly reflective, impressionistic in character with one or two nods to Debussy and Satie in its melody and harmony.
‘Nimbus’, marked “dreamy, head in the clouds”, seems to owe something to Morton Feldman in its gentle dynamics, ethereal, ‘floating’ sounds and use of silence; as the final piece on the EP it may end definitively on a long, sustained chord, yet its timbres and mood continue to resonate long after the piano sound has died away.
The music is elegantly, sensitively played by pianist Marie Awadis, who is able to bring clarity to the sound, especially in the higher range of the piano, while also appreciating the particular effects the composer intends. The result is an album of exquisitely measured, absorbing and atmospheric piano music
Mathieu Karsenti has made the score of the pieces available and this music will certainly appeal to those who enjoy minimalist/post-classical repertoire and exploring the sonic possibilities of the piano (ability level Grade 5-7).
‘Under Piano Skies’ is available to download or stream and the scores are available to purchase from the composer’s website