One of the great pleasures of writing music reviews is that it presents opportunities to connect with people who love the same artists you do. Lena Natalia did exactly that a short time ago, after reading a review I wrote for exclaim.ca about Ryuichi Sakamoto’s extraordinary new album async.
The only thing better than hearing from fellow music lovers, is when that new friend is a talented artist in her own right.
Natalia’s new album Almost Home landed July 7. She describes it as “a postclassical, ambient and minimalist piano recording.” It’s all of that and more. There’s a gentleness to these 12 pieces that give the album a warm, sentimental feel. “The Knight,” for example, showcases Natalia’s affection for the ambient genre. She could dedicate herself to that music fully and enjoy a successful career.
“Coffeehouse Glances” on the other hand is an extraordinary classical piano performance. Do not take Natalia’s reference to “postclassical” as in any way a commentary on her technique. Her playing is detailed and elegant.
“The Gardner” is another highlight. Again, we’re presented with a skilled performance of a breathtaking original composition. More than any other, this one suggests a very bright future ahead.
Not that Natalia hasn’t already earned her share of applause. She won an album-of-the-year nod from OurPlaceRadio last year for her Second Youth recording. That same disc earned her the Silver Medal for Outstanding Achievement, Modern Classical Piano.
I asked Natalia what her favourite piece on the new album is. “It is a bit difficult for me to choose a favourite,” she said. “They are all the result of a specific observation, feeling or impression that hold personal meaning for me.”
She did offer “Open Door” as an answer. It’s one I bet Sakamoto would love.