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London, 2022

Piano Paintings is Mathieu Karsenti’s second solo release which focuses on the piano. The French composer, who was not so much accustomed to composing for the instrument until his first release — Under Piano Skies — with Armenian composer and pianist Marie Awadis, seems now a lot more comfortable and eager to explore the different possibilities and areas of work of the piano. In most of his recent projects, Karsenti seems interested in exploring his French heritage of impressionism — which ties naturally with his work as a visual artist. It is even more obvious with Piano Paintings, which connects directly with paint colours and subject matters. His approach is truly the one of the impressionists; allowing the listener to create his own experience from his impressions…


With “Indigo” one can immediately understand that Karsenti is leaving a lot of space for the piano to express itself — all of its range and nuances are taken into account and given a musical voice. While there are string instruments, it is really the piano which is the main actor of Piano Paintings. There is an unfinished feel, which leaves the responsibility to Awadis to complete the composer’s ideas. “3am Abstract” gives the impression that the written music provided to the interpreter was more of a set of guidelines, rather than a strict read and play. 

“Payne’s Grey” is almost declarative in its approach, as if Karsenti, again, wanted the piano to speak for itself. Here, Awadis has an opportunity to present herself as an interpreter, between the composer and the instrument. “Watercolour Storms”, plays with sound effects, collages and field recordings — yet not in an adventurous way, and rather with parsimony. With “Dawn and Dew”, there is more and more a wish from Karsenti to treat silence as music — as one should do. “Hampshire, January” stands out to the loyal listener of Karsenti as it hints at the past pentatonic explorations of Karsenti — including through his works on Aitaké. There is a clear visual indicator, despite the composer’s own artwork, which orientates the listener towards shades of colours — grey, blue and indigo for instance; “Prussian Blue Skies”. “Sepia” is another reflection of the colour cultural association, a painting a nostalgic musical picture. The palette is there for the listener, to paint his own impressions... 


In her own music, Awadis makes use of different timbres and colours — closer to her own musical heritage — and it is interesting to hear her, released from her own creative guidelines and enveloped in Karsenti’s own. Here, a relationship is being developed between both; between the composer and the performer. And while Awadis is a talented composer of her own, she manages to place herself as a great translator of the Karsenti’s thoughts. There is always, not only a logical continuation between Karsenti’s solo projects — from one to the other — but also a common thread which ties them all together. The connection is becoming more and more apparent, and the message as well as the intentions of the composer clearer and clearer, project after project and with this latest one, Piano Paintings.

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