Zone Music Reporter
It took me a while to warm up enough to this solo piano recording from Mark Pinkus in order to write a review, but eventually I did. With 18 tracks, it would be difficult to say everything here is either all good or all bad. Solo piano CDs that clock in at almost 70 minutes, which Touching does, walk a perilous tightrope. It takes an exceptional pianist to hold a reviewer’s (or perhaps even the casual music listener’s) attention and interest that long, (extra instrumentation or keyboards are thrown in along the way help immeasurably), unless one is playing in an ambient minimalist style (e.g. Eno’s Neroli).
Owing that this is Pinkus’ sixth album and that he’s been releasing music since 1990, my lack of outright enthusiasm for his music probably places me in the minority. For example, my esteemed colleague, Kathy Parsons of Mainly Piano (http://www.mainlypiano.com/Mainly_Piano/Home.html) states “Touching is sure to be one of my favorite CDs for the 2009…”
Pinkus’ music lands somewhere in the middle of the new age piano spectrum, although his affinity for neo-classical influences dominates this affair. He’s not a warm approachable “friendly” pianist (e.g. like Wayne Gratz is) but he’s also not a by-the-numbers one either (you know the kind I’m referring to – one who just “shows up,” plays some rolling chords laced with the faux romanticism of a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card and collects his or her pay check). There is obvious depth here and variety aplenty, although sometimes the drama of a given piece overwhelms the main melody during the bridge. More than once I longed for more subtlety and continuity, because when Pinkus does quiet down, he’s at his best.
The opening “The Path” showcases some of what I didn’t care for—the refrain is too sing-songy for my taste and the changes in playing volume grated on me. “Captain Roots” has a strong classical feel to it, but the time signature switches, volume ebbs and flows, and a fluxing mood remove the charm which the music might otherwise contain. I enjoyed the European-accented “Gone for a Walk” and “Rainy Sunday Morning” is a lovely gentle impressionistic tone poem with just a hint of Beethoven shining through now and then. “Unanswered Song” starts off promising with a great refrain and a gentle cheeriness, but Pinkus loses his way in the piece’s bridge, luckily recovering and returning to the pleasant motifs of the earlier segment. It’s this particular modus operandi which is my biggest problem with Touching, i.e. the artist injecting power, passion and drama in the middle of his softer tracks, e.g. “Maybe Never.”
There’s no denying Pinkus’ playing talent and Touching amply demonstrates it, but the crux of the problem is that there are a LOT of talented pianists releasing new age piano CDs these days (the casual fan has no idea just how many, trust me). By this stage of his music career, Pinkus has probably firmly established his musical persona and his fans no doubt like him just the way he is. Sadly, I can’t say I share their feeling. Far from the worst and yet also not near the top of the heap either, Touching is a “nice” new age solo piano CD, especially if played in the background where the abrupt mood/volume shifts will be less noticeable, Recommended to those fans of the genre who prefer healthy doses of classical influence (in fact, too much for my taste).
My Love To You
2010 / Mark Pinkus
Here is a review of “Touching” that just came out on Nov/21/08
My Love To You is the sixth release from Canadian pianist/composer Mark Pinkus. Classically-trained from an early age, Pinkus began composing as a child and obviously feels very comfortable with a variety of musical styles that range from tender ballads to ambitious concept pieces. The fourteen compositions on this album have strong melodies and express a fascinating assortment of emotions and experiences. Pinkus’ classical roots are obvious, but his music is very accessible and doesn’t utilize a lot of flashy technique unless the music calls for it.
My Love To You opens with “Victory,” a piece with two major themes, one of which is strong and march-like and the other much gentler and more delicate. Pinkus effortlessly weaves these diverse themes into a seamless whole. “So Long” is an enchanting song without words and one of my favorites. Graceful with a touch of melancholy, the piece conveys emotions that are honest and ring true. “Conversations Between an Old Woman and a Young Man” is an amazing dialogue with two distinct musical voices. The old woman’s voice is slower and more confident while the young man’s is light, carefree, and perhaps a little reckless. “Never Let It Go Away” is a sweet and gentle love song. “Walking in Time” is another favorite. The mood is light and relaxed, but there is an underlying energy that propels it forward. “Sparkles” is more of a concept piece. The main theme flows like light dancing on water; another theme is more frenetic like a spinning prism that sends sparks of light flying in all directions – a very visual piece! “Temple of Health” also has several themes. The first is calm and hymn-like; as the energy picks up in the bass of the piano, the treble soon joins the joyful race. The themes then alternate between reverence and high-energy, ending with a big grin. “Seashell Island” is my favorite. It begins very mysteriously in the deep bass of the piano. The main theme is gorgeous, conveying beauty, sadness, and grace. This island has a passionate story to tell! The fluid elegance of “Time To Forgive” touches the heart with its sweet tenderness. “Meditation Stone” is a bit more abstract, but demonstrates another facet of Pinkus’ composing styles. Slow, mysterious, and very relaxed, it’s a lovely close to a great album.
My Love To You is available from www.markpinkus.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Recommended!
MY LOVE TO YOU
Pas Nécessaire de Mots
Quebecois Mark Pinkus recently released another fine album of solo piano works called My Love to You. It is not hard to believe that he started out at the age of seven with a full sized helping of talent. He was rebellious with his teachers who tried repeatedly to formalize his education, but his spirit would not be broken. He played his own brand of music starting as a teenager and has continued to do so ever since. Vive le révolution! He has a warm, passionate style that invites the listener to imagine a story based on the melody. Sometimes, the result will delight you.
The first tune on the album, Victory starts out as a march. But I soon learned that is was a victory of the heart. The conquering hero did not overcome an unbeatable foe, but the power of his own feelings. There is nothing left to do but surrender. And such a sweet surrender.
Sadly I went from a passionate discovery to a parting of the ways. The fact that it was a rainy day and the multi-colored leaves were leaping down from their autumnal perches did not help the mood. The skies were dull and gray and the blustery wind did not let up. The title of the tune, So Long, speaks for itself. This should have been perhaps the last song on the recording, but there it was. Maybe it reflected a life out of order as my life tends to be from time to time. Nevertheless, it was hard to say goodbye to this melancholy song.
Sometimes you hear a few bars from a song and just love it from the very beginning. It was that way for me when I heard Conversations Between An Old Woman and A Young Man. I listened to it a while before I heard her say everything would be alright and he replied that he could never be that optimistic. Her firm piano voice declared that hers was the voice of experience and he should listen, and finally, he did. Some music has a lot to say.
Sparkles was a light hearted tune fraught with the magic of the stars. There is something special about a night sky full of twinkling lights. Not only is there magic in knowing that the lights have been there since before the beginning of time, but also the assurance that sometimes, with the eyes closed and the breath held for a moment, wishes made just might come true.
I felt Time to Forgive to be a poignant tune. I am a strong purveyor of the power of forgiveness and its ability to lessen an immense spiritual burden. Mark’s sweet, flowing song translates the hidden grace one receives when the theory is applied. It further alludes that sometimes we might offer forgiveness not only to others, but to ourselves as well. The tune is rather sad, but in a beautiful way.
Just for no reason at all I listened to So Long once more to complete the review. Perhaps it belongs in both places, but I certainly enjoyed it again as I did all the cuts on My Love To You. It just might be coincidence, but as I was finishing up the last paragraph, the sun came out and illuminated the fall landscape. Both were a pleasure.
Rating: Very Good ****0
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 11/19/2010
Congratulations! Your song “She’s Gone to California” from “Slowly
the Day Goes By” CD was voted #3 by the listeners of the station last
week! It received a 9.6 out of 10 rating!
Not bad for being selected out of 1290 tracks in the play list!
The new top ten list is posted on our web site.
Thank you again for sharing your music with us!
All the best,
Rev. Dr. Rick