We try to cover a reasonable share of what I would describe as Contemporary Classical compositions, and I would write about more of them but sometimes I feel that the music we get sent is simply not quite substantial enough. It’s not that I expect every release to be Bruckner or Mahler symphonic masterpiece (or maybe the problem is that I do…), but 2 minutes of a fleeting piano melody often doesn't seem quite enough. In her EP ‘Within, without’, Julia Andersson manages to create something that you can genuinely get engrossed in, and which has a lovely soothing feel throughout too.
Julia Andersson is from Finland, currently studying for a Bachelors degree in Music Pedagogy (which broadly is teaching methodology), and ‘Within, without’ is her debut. Inspired by her native Finnish surroundings she studied classical Piano as a child, but later she broadened her knowledge becoming interested in jazz and ambient music. She’s currently working on her debut full length album of piano music.
The EP opens with ‘Calm Before the Storm’, although don’t be expecting a Benjamin Britten ‘Sea Interludes’ type storm to follow, because all of Andersson’s music is pretty calming, and this is a quietly reflective piece, with lovely judged accentuation and tiny crescendos of sound. Noticeably her recording style seems to be to amplify the ‘workings’ of the piano as well as the notes, which we’ve heard before in piano music we’ve featured, which works really effectively in this piece, but at other times can get slightly distracting.
A good example of that is the next track, ‘The Eternal Thing’, which is quite possibly the most beautiful piece of new piano music I’ve heard for years, with a gorgeous melody that takes my head completely out of the stresses of life and somewhere up into the sky, and for me sits right up there with the Andante in Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Concerto. But for my personal taste the sounds of the piano mechanics are just slightly too much, it’s beautiful enough without hearing quite so much of those noises.
‘Tilia Cordata’ is reflective and atmospheric, and I love the musical phrasing of Anderssons piano playing, but it feels quite a fleeting piece which ends just as it gets into full flow. In ‘Within’ I love the rhythms which appear to shift and move, maybe as if I was listening to more minimalist inspired pieces, whilst in concluding track ‘Without’ Andersson there is a feeling of loss, whilst the subtle acceleration of pace at the end conveys a feeling of hope alonside the sadness too.
‘Within, without’ is a lovely set of compositions, with attractive interesting melodies, flowing phrasing and rhythms that shift the emphasis of the tracks and a sense that she is able to transport the listener away from the daily stresses to another place, time and dimension - and trust me, we need that right now. I'm no classical musical expert, but I would guess that Andersson takes her influences from a wide range of composers, Erik Satie, Max Richter, Nils Frahm, Philip Glass perhaps, as well as more tradtional classical composers and there's a natural free flowing spirit that hints at her jazz influences too. It's a really lovely debut, beautifully performed and in 'The Eternal Thing' she has composed a piece that is worthy of any stage or playlist.