Portraits is a 2019 project consisting of eight short pieces for piano. The project started a couple of years ago, with a piece entitled Hamburg—now Felix 1. As an autodidact composer I learn by analysing and extracting what attracts me in a piece of music; each of my projects is an attempt at growing and learning from the ones that inspire me. Portraits is probably the most obvious of all. Here, I selected four composers—Couperin, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Glass—and decided to paint a musical portrait of them, using elements of their language and my own. Having done that, I then built on the idea of the auto-portrait by creating four reflections mirroring each piece.
Couperin comes as a surprise, as it seems that—when it comes to baroque music—I have been influenced by Bach a lot more than him. However, Couperin’s Pièces de Clavecin have had such an influence on me—especially in my learning process as a keyboard composer—, that it made sense to include him in Portraits. Whether it is because of Couperin being one of the first to define the French sound or whether it is because of his ability at writing simplistic—almost minimalistic—pieces of music. Mozart is the minimalist composer par excellence! His music is simple, straightforward and speaks to everyone. As a composer it is fascinating to study his keyboard music, which seems to always follow similar structures and patterns and yet is always diverse and fresh. Mendelssohn is another particular one and another surprise. Similarly to Couperin, I do not know his body of work as well as other composers, and I could have easily picked Chopin instead of him. However, his Lieder ohne Worte were a revelation to me and taught me a lot on how to compose music for keyboard. There is the crispiness of classical music and the sensitivity of romantic music. Mendelssohn, Chopin and Schubert are three composers that spoke and wrote a language that is easily adaptable today, and that in a sense relates to minimalism. Glass is responsible for passing me the virus of minimalism! I remember the first time I heard his Metamorphosis 2; at that time I was not very much into classical music and Glass built a bridge between popular music and classical music—and that helped me a lot. His life is also very inspirational for the aspiring composer that I am.
All the pieces have been performed by the British composer and pianist Affan.
The artwork—by David Armes at Red Press Plate—represents four abstract keys/Ps and are arranged to suggest the composers’ profiles, the four pieces they inspired and their inverse counterparts.
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