Pop

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Gra­ham Strahle

Pi­ano Benny An­der­s­son Deutsche Gram­mophon Benny An­der­s­son’s third solo al­bum finds the for­mer ABBA star at his favourite Fazi­oli grand pi­ano and on pres­ti­gious clas­si­cal la­bel Deutsche Gram­mophon. Life has been var­ied and pro­duc­tive through his five-decade-long ca­reer, which has seen him lat­terly ab­sorbed in play­ing in Swedish folk bands as an ac­cor­dion­ist and writ­ing mu­sic for choirs. But there has been noth­ing quite like this in the an­nals of pop. Pi­ano sees An­der­s­son, 70, sit­ting alone and ex­posed at the epony­mous in­stru­ment, and show­ing what a won­der­fully ca­pa­ble and com­plete mu­si­cian he is.

The LP fea­tures pieces on which he has been qui­etly mus­ing away for years and decades; “mem­oirs”, as he calls them. Six come from the ABBA song­book, in­clud­ing Thank You for the Mu­sic and The Day Be­fore You Came; a sim­i­lar num­ber from the mu­si­cals Chess and Kristina fran Du­ve­mala, which he co-wrote with Bjorn Ul­vaeus.

In­ter­est­ingly, An­der­s­son also in­cludes a hand­ful of songs from his first two solo al­bums, Klinga mina klockor (1987) and Novem­ber (1989), along with two more re­cent pieces: an in­stru­men­tal, Flick­o­r­nas Rum, which he wrote for his own Benny An­der­s­son Orches­tra in 2011, and the cho­ral piece En Skrift I Snon, from 2014.

One is im­me­di­ately struck by the mag­i­cal sen­si­tiv­ity and love­li­ness of his touch. An­der­s­son is a fine pi­anist, on the com­plete op­po­site end of the scale com­pared with a mul­ti­tude of pop mu­si­cians and rock­ers who tend to belt the key­board. He gath­ers a gor­geous, eu­pho­nious sound from the pi­ano, lis­ten­ing deeply into the res­o­nances of the in­stru­ment and draw­ing out melody with the gen­tlest care. I Let the Mu­sic Speak from The Visi­tors starts from a whis­per and grows with clas­si­cal el­e­gance to be­come an art­ful cre­ation re­sem­bling Chopin.

You and I from Chess is sim­i­larly oh-so­gen­tle to be­gin with and rolls out in rhap­sodic waves so that, de­spite its re­strained dy­nam­ics, it seems a big­ger piece than the orig­i­nal torch songs: Lisz­tian in its emo­tive grandeur but with­out the bom­bast.

Therein lies this al­bum’s other in­trigue. What quickly dawns on hear­ing An­der­s­son at the pi­ano are the clas­si­cal foun­da­tions of his song­writ­ing and pi­anis­tic ap­proach. The third track, Aldrig from Kristina, bears an un­canny kin­ship with Chopin’s mazurkas in its del­i­cately pointed rhythms.

Mean­while, Scott Jo­plin’s rag­time is af­fec­tion­ately re­called in Thank You for the Mu­sic, and the cho­rale-like An­them from Chess and con­tra­pun­tal voice-lead­ing in the ex­quis­ite En Skrift I Snon are al­most Bachian.

An­der­s­son’s lan­guage is his own, though, and to hear him craft­ing his life­time’s work into life at the pi­ano is ex­ceed­ingly spe­cial. All 21 tracks are pol­ished gems that you want to hear re­peat­edly, not only for their gen­eros­ity of heart and soul but for their re­fined beauty.

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