Johannes Hirschmann is a German pianist and composer based between Berlin and Paris. Classically trained, Hirschmann became fascinated by modern piano improvisation and forged his musical style somewhere between both worlds. After two successful EPs, the composer released in April 2019 his first solo album entitled Fragments. Recorded autonomously over a year and half in various locations, the album has been mastered by Berlin-based engineer Zino Mikorey. Fragments takes its name from the composer’s creative process; through improvising small musical ideas or thematic fragments, Hirschmann developed complete structured pieces.
The idea of building through musical cells is reflected in most of the pieces of Fragments. Winter in an Empty Church builds step by step, adding notes and musical voices bar after bar over a continuous four to the floor rhythm, and Can’t Be Ordinary illustrates the idea of musical fragments superimposed. A contrasting piece—during the climax of the album—I-II-III plays around tonal centers and flirts with atonality; with changing odd rhythms, it is structured in a ternary form and although not obvious to harmonically follow, it keeps its interest from an ever evolving musical narrative line. Oxytocine—which is an hormone released by the pituitary gland that causes increased contraction of the uterus during labour and stimulates the ejection of milk into the ducts of the breasts; the title leaves us puzzled—follows the character of the previous piece, but has a brighter quality thanks to the use of high piano register. Chronophobia is defined by the fear of passing time and future, and is emphasised by the odd fragmented ending—the piece is probably connected to the composer’s nostalgic intentions. The artwork for Fragments is made of layered photographs of Hirschmann’s grandfather’s keepsakes, who introduced him to classical music—an image for their memories. Some pieces favour strong melodic content, such as Everybody Wants the Cave, Talk—which was released as the first single of the album—,Waiting for the Present—reminding me of some of Fabio Fornaroli’s last releases, mostly due to its songlike quality—, and You Changed and So Did I—which is slightly somber and more personal. Other pieces are harmonically well crafted; such as Circle whose musical quality lies in the quintal harmony and pentatonic scales or Idle that closes the album reference jazz ballades.
In Fragments, Hirschmann demonstrates the ability to combine contemporary sound with elements of classical form and structure. Besides, the album is a testimony to what led the composer to his current musical-self. The listener’s attention is constantly looked after, through pieces that are both melodic—such as the melancholic Intro—and musically interesting—such as So Spacious, one of the most interesting piece of the album, involving the wall of sound piano technique with a constant shifting harmony that alternates between tension and release, dissonance and consonance. Furthermore, Fragments is an album that follows a narrative line and musical logic that naturally transports the listener.