(New Album Review) Stefan Wesolowski- Liebestod

I have often written in my commentaries about how I believe some albums evoke impressions of the atmosphere of specific places. Stefan Wesolowski’s Liebestod, which opens with a recording of rolling waves, certainly brings to my mind impressions of towering hills and the sea. The songs from this album were initially presented at 2013’s Unsound festival, and the record itself is now being released on the American label Important Records. It was realized with the financial support of The Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, among other generous contributors.

Liebestod is a funereal album of compositions for piano, strings, brass, and electronics. Though its content is deliberately repetitive in its structures, it is a contemporary classical of noteworthy sensitivity. The gentle, percussive electronics at the beginning of “Route” reminded me a little bit of electronic musician Loscil’s work, but as the composition’s piano and brass parts gradually come to the forefront, the piece transforms into something intangibly different. Wesolowski’s publisher has quoted him as remarking that though he respects classical music, he is not making literal references to it. This lines up with my impression of the record. “Hand Im Haar” and “Liebestod” are both chamber pieces that evoke the contemplative intimacy of the Romantic era of classical, only with repeating figures on the piano and the gently sighing strings. “What the Thunder Said” begins on a note of minimalist unease, something that should be very familiar to fans of drone, then, halfway through, abruptly speeds up as urgent notes from the piano and swelling brass begin to take over. It is music that is pregnant with a sense of loss, structurally in keeping with modern classical but also deeply reverent and allusive to the Western art music’s past.

This is an interesting and lovely album– Wesolowski is probably very strongly influenced by Steve Reich, but he has also incorporated some of the feeling one can get from classical composers from the past. The album is named from an allusion to Wagner, and the album often brings to mind impressions of a pastoral, European spirit. One hopes that Wesolowski will continue to experiment and create more work like this.

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