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Bruno Heinen / Camerata Alma Viva - Changing Of The Seasons Rating: 3-5 out of 5 There is much here for the open minded listener to enjoy and the whole project has obviously been a labour of love for all those involved in it.

Bruno Heinen / Camerata Alma Viva

“Changing Of The Seasons”

(Babel Records BBDV16143)

The London based pianist Bruno Heinen is a highly accomplished musician whose work explores the hinterland between jazz and classical music. “Changing Of The Seasons” represents his fourth album for Babel and continues the interpretative, semi- conceptual approach that has distinguished his previous three releases for the label.

Heinen’s 2012 début was “Twinkle, Twinkle”, an intriguing set of variations and group improvisations based upon the melody of the children’s nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. Credited to the Dialogues Trio the album featured the talents of bassist Andrea Di Biase and drummer Jon Scott together with guest soloist Julian Siegel (reeds).

In 2013 Heinen released “Tierkreis”, an interpretation of the German avant-garde composer Karl-Heinz Stockhausen’s work of the same name by a jazz sextet featuring Di Biase and Scott plus the horn players Fulvio Sigurta (trumpet), Tom Challenger (tenor sax) and James Allsopp (bass clarinet). The album proved to be surprisingly accessible and enjoyable and an excellent jazz recording in its own right.

In 2015 Heinen’s third recording was another homage, this time to his primary and most important jazz influence, the great American pianist and composer Bill Evans (1929-80). Evans’ classically inspired sound and technique profoundly influenced the young Heinen who was later taught by the great British pianist John Taylor, himself an Evans disciple, who was so tragically lost to us earlier in 2015. Heinen’s tribute, “Postcard To Bill Evans”, was an intimate duo set recorded with the Danish born, London based guitarist Kristian Borring, a band-leader in his own right. “Postcard” featured a selection of Evans compositions together with a brace of jazz standards associated with him plus Heinen’s title track, which fitted in superbly with the ethos of the album. 

For his latest project Heinen has drawn inspiration from one of the best known and most popular works in the classical canon, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. However “Changing Of The Seasons” is essentially a new work, albeit one inspired by both Vivaldi’s music and the poems that the Italian composer wrote, all in the sonnet form, for contemporaneous publication with the music in 1723. Indeed it’s Vivaldi’s words that Heinen mainly responds to, the new music alludes only twice to the original work - and then only indirectly.

Both Heinen and violinist Charlotte Maclet, leader of the Geneva based Camerata Alma Viva who commissioned the work, were struck by the similarities between Vivaldi’s four violin concerti and the methods of modern jazz composition whereby catchy melodic hooks combine with strong structures to provide plenty of space for improvisers and soloists, in this case Heinen himself.

“Changing Of The Seasons” is performed by the pianist and composer in conjunction with the twelve piece string ensemble Camerata Alma Viva (the group name meaning ‘the living soul’) consisting of;

Charlotte Maclet – violin and direction

Julian Azkoul, Tamara Elias, Harriet Murray – first violins

Leslie Boulin-Raulet, Gaelle-Anne Michel, Eric Mouret – second violins

Tom Hankey, Kay Stephen – violas

Matthieu Foubert, Arthur Boutillier – cellos

Rosie Moon – double bass

The project was partly financed by a crowd funding campaign and was supported from the outset by Oliver Weindling a director of London’s Vortex Jazz Club and founder of the Babel record label. Weindling allowed the ensemble to use the Vortex as a rehearsal space and the album was recorded there at a concert given in March 2016. 

The album’s liner notes consist of Weindling interviewing Heinen and Maclet with the text offering an interesting and valuable insight into the inspirations, methods and processes behind the creation of this new work.

“Changing Of the Seasons” combines elements of jazz improvisation with chamber music and represents Heinen’s vision of what “Vivaldi would write if he were alive today”. Some sections are tightly scored, others deliberately left open allowing Heinen free improvisational rein.

As one would expect the album commences with “Spring”, arranged by Heinen and violinist Eric Mouret and including a quote from Vivaldi himself. After an introduction featuring massed pizzicato strings Heinen is joined by lusher bowed textures. The pizzicato sounds then return to accompany Heinen’s beautiful piano extemporisations and are intended to evoke the “festive birdsong”, “murmuring streams” and “soft breezes” of Vivaldi’s sonnet.

The music of “Summer” focusses on the line “the blazing sun’s relentless heat” as the gently lyrical trill of Heinen’s piano combines with delicately bowed strings to evoke the shimmering of a heat haze. Harsher string textures and more robust piano periodically suggest the impending threat of a summer storm but in the main the mood is lyrical and tranquil, richly evocative and strangely beautiful.

For “Autumn” Heinen admits to departing from the text, instead “building the whole movement towards a storm, after which the sun re-appears”. The piece begins gently enough with warm, rich string textures evoking the russet hues of autumn. Strings, both bowed and plucked, then add colour to Heinen’s still beautiful piano explorations and it’s only towards the end of the piece that the tension begins to build, erupting into sudden violence with dramatic low register piano chords and jagged strings. As promised the sun does eventually come out again, with the twinkle of Heinen’s piano perhaps representing the sunlit sparkle of raindrops on the grass after the storm. And perhaps Heinen doesn’t stray so far from the sonnet after all, the ‘storm’ section could just as easily depict the violence of the hunt described in Vivaldi’s verse.

Finally “Winter” sees Heinen focussing on the line “frosty snow in biting winds” and deploying his own version of Vivaldi’s “repeated quaver idea”. Pre-dating minimalism by several centuries the mesmeric string motifs evoke the stamping of icy feet, or perhaps the drip of water falling from icicles. Later rich, dark cello led textures hint at the pleasures of sitting before a warm hearth. Heinen’s piano ruminations further explore the chilly beauties of winter, a season of which Vivaldi says “nonetheless brings its own delights”.

Superbly recorded by engineer Raphael Mouterde “Changing Of The Seasons” is an impressive and often very beautiful piece of work. Heinen and the string players integrate very well and as a ‘cross-over’ the album is entirely successful and achieves its aims admirably.

However with its lack of a jazz rhythm section and any sense of conventional swing it may not appeal to some jazz die-hards. Nevertheless there is much here for the open minded listener to enjoy and the whole project has obviously been a labour of love for all those involved in it.

That said it’s still essentially a classical or cross-over rather than a jazz work and after a series of “themed” albums I’d still like to hear Heinen leading a more orthodox jazz group (be it trio, quartet or quintet) and playing his own jazz compositions.

     

Changing Of The Seasons

Bruno Heinen / Camerata Alma Viva

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Changing Of The Seasons

There is much here for the open minded listener to enjoy and the whole project has obviously been a labour of love for all those involved in it.

Bruno Heinen / Camerata Alma Viva

“Changing Of The Seasons”

(Babel Records BBDV16143)

The London based pianist Bruno Heinen is a highly accomplished musician whose work explores the hinterland between jazz and classical music. “Changing Of The Seasons” represents his fourth album for Babel and continues the interpretative, semi- conceptual approach that has distinguished his previous three releases for the label.

Heinen’s 2012 début was “Twinkle, Twinkle”, an intriguing set of variations and group improvisations based upon the melody of the children’s nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. Credited to the Dialogues Trio the album featured the talents of bassist Andrea Di Biase and drummer Jon Scott together with guest soloist Julian Siegel (reeds).

In 2013 Heinen released “Tierkreis”, an interpretation of the German avant-garde composer Karl-Heinz Stockhausen’s work of the same name by a jazz sextet featuring Di Biase and Scott plus the horn players Fulvio Sigurta (trumpet), Tom Challenger (tenor sax) and James Allsopp (bass clarinet). The album proved to be surprisingly accessible and enjoyable and an excellent jazz recording in its own right.

In 2015 Heinen’s third recording was another homage, this time to his primary and most important jazz influence, the great American pianist and composer Bill Evans (1929-80). Evans’ classically inspired sound and technique profoundly influenced the young Heinen who was later taught by the great British pianist John Taylor, himself an Evans disciple, who was so tragically lost to us earlier in 2015. Heinen’s tribute, “Postcard To Bill Evans”, was an intimate duo set recorded with the Danish born, London based guitarist Kristian Borring, a band-leader in his own right. “Postcard” featured a selection of Evans compositions together with a brace of jazz standards associated with him plus Heinen’s title track, which fitted in superbly with the ethos of the album. 

For his latest project Heinen has drawn inspiration from one of the best known and most popular works in the classical canon, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. However “Changing Of The Seasons” is essentially a new work, albeit one inspired by both Vivaldi’s music and the poems that the Italian composer wrote, all in the sonnet form, for contemporaneous publication with the music in 1723. Indeed it’s Vivaldi’s words that Heinen mainly responds to, the new music alludes only twice to the original work - and then only indirectly.

Both Heinen and violinist Charlotte Maclet, leader of the Geneva based Camerata Alma Viva who commissioned the work, were struck by the similarities between Vivaldi’s four violin concerti and the methods of modern jazz composition whereby catchy melodic hooks combine with strong structures to provide plenty of space for improvisers and soloists, in this case Heinen himself.

“Changing Of The Seasons” is performed by the pianist and composer in conjunction with the twelve piece string ensemble Camerata Alma Viva (the group name meaning ‘the living soul’) consisting of;

Charlotte Maclet – violin and direction

Julian Azkoul, Tamara Elias, Harriet Murray – first violins

Leslie Boulin-Raulet, Gaelle-Anne Michel, Eric Mouret – second violins

Tom Hankey, Kay Stephen – violas

Matthieu Foubert, Arthur Boutillier – cellos

Rosie Moon – double bass

The project was partly financed by a crowd funding campaign and was supported from the outset by Oliver Weindling a director of London’s Vortex Jazz Club and founder of the Babel record label. Weindling allowed the ensemble to use the Vortex as a rehearsal space and the album was recorded there at a concert given in March 2016. 

The album’s liner notes consist of Weindling interviewing Heinen and Maclet with the text offering an interesting and valuable insight into the inspirations, methods and processes behind the creation of this new work.

“Changing Of the Seasons” combines elements of jazz improvisation with chamber music and represents Heinen’s vision of what “Vivaldi would write if he were alive today”. Some sections are tightly scored, others deliberately left open allowing Heinen free improvisational rein.

As one would expect the album commences with “Spring”, arranged by Heinen and violinist Eric Mouret and including a quote from Vivaldi himself. After an introduction featuring massed pizzicato strings Heinen is joined by lusher bowed textures. The pizzicato sounds then return to accompany Heinen’s beautiful piano extemporisations and are intended to evoke the “festive birdsong”, “murmuring streams” and “soft breezes” of Vivaldi’s sonnet.

The music of “Summer” focusses on the line “the blazing sun’s relentless heat” as the gently lyrical trill of Heinen’s piano combines with delicately bowed strings to evoke the shimmering of a heat haze. Harsher string textures and more robust piano periodically suggest the impending threat of a summer storm but in the main the mood is lyrical and tranquil, richly evocative and strangely beautiful.

For “Autumn” Heinen admits to departing from the text, instead “building the whole movement towards a storm, after which the sun re-appears”. The piece begins gently enough with warm, rich string textures evoking the russet hues of autumn. Strings, both bowed and plucked, then add colour to Heinen’s still beautiful piano explorations and it’s only towards the end of the piece that the tension begins to build, erupting into sudden violence with dramatic low register piano chords and jagged strings. As promised the sun does eventually come out again, with the twinkle of Heinen’s piano perhaps representing the sunlit sparkle of raindrops on the grass after the storm. And perhaps Heinen doesn’t stray so far from the sonnet after all, the ‘storm’ section could just as easily depict the violence of the hunt described in Vivaldi’s verse.

Finally “Winter” sees Heinen focussing on the line “frosty snow in biting winds” and deploying his own version of Vivaldi’s “repeated quaver idea”. Pre-dating minimalism by several centuries the mesmeric string motifs evoke the stamping of icy feet, or perhaps the drip of water falling from icicles. Later rich, dark cello led textures hint at the pleasures of sitting before a warm hearth. Heinen’s piano ruminations further explore the chilly beauties of winter, a season of which Vivaldi says “nonetheless brings its own delights”.

Superbly recorded by engineer Raphael Mouterde “Changing Of The Seasons” is an impressive and often very beautiful piece of work. Heinen and the string players integrate very well and as a ‘cross-over’ the album is entirely successful and achieves its aims admirably.

However with its lack of a jazz rhythm section and any sense of conventional swing it may not appeal to some jazz die-hards. Nevertheless there is much here for the open minded listener to enjoy and the whole project has obviously been a labour of love for all those involved in it.

That said it’s still essentially a classical or cross-over rather than a jazz work and after a series of “themed” albums I’d still like to hear Heinen leading a more orthodox jazz group (be it trio, quartet or quintet) and playing his own jazz compositions.

     


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