Reviewed by Darla Bower
Reflections is a collection of 21 relatively short classical pieces. Most of the pieces are played as written with the artist rearranging six of the classical selections. Several favorites are included on this CD and also some surprisingly delightful lesser-known pieces are also featured. Selections are included from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic era and in no particular order which I prefer. This collection reflects a skilled and versatile classical musician with many abilities in music. So it’s no surprise this artist is classically trained! The artist’s touch is gentle and expressive. Emotiveness is expressed and is felt by the listener in each piece. My favorite composer is represented on this CD by two different selections of Chopin. This CD opens with Arietta in Eb Op.12 No. 1 by E. Grieg; which is representative of the Romantic era and is one of my favorites of this collection. What a beautiful piece indeed and I had nearly forgotten about it. Thank you for reminding me! I love the gentle expression the artist portrays in this piece.
My next favorite is the rearrangement of El Choclo by A.G. Villoldo. I loved the playful introduction in this piece giving a staccato expression of playfulness and joy. This playfulness and joy is felt throughout this tango. I really enjoyed it. It’s important to note that Villoldo is credited as being one of the pioneers of the tango.
My next favorites are the two selections of Chopin. Mazurka Op. 7 No. 2 and Tristesse. Chopin is referred to as the “poet of the piano” by many. The artful poetry displayed by Mr. Hagen is felt in both of these pieces. Tristesse showcases the gentle touch of Hagen in his thoughtful arrangement while the Mazurka displays the stately yet elegant touch of this versatile artist. I found each Chopin piece evocative in its own element.
Another delightful surprise was Sonata K. 213 by D. Scarlatti. This piece is very reminiscent of the Baroque era. Scarlatti, the Italian composer is well represented in this song by Mr. Hagen. He masterfully performs it with both precision and charm. The interpretation and presentation of these great works are simply divine for any classical music lover. A direct quote from his artist page on CD Baby says: Mr. Hagen believes that “with or without words, well-made music tells a story”. I wholeheartedly agree. Though Reflections is without words, each charming pieces tells a story in this varied classical collection of emotiveness and accomplishment. Therefore, Reflections is highly recommended. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. I think you will enjoy this classical collection of piano solos!
Reviewed by Darla Bower
Inward spaces….Outward places (title is actually in lowercase letters) is the first CD released by Brian Hagen in 2014. If you are looking for a varied style of music that has elements of classical, jazz and multi-instruments rolled into one CD including an ambient sound, then this release is for you. Out of fourteen tracks, six are solo piano with three being multi-instrumental all performed by the artist. Several songs have an ambient sound and true new age draw. I found the CD to be varied in style and mood including an “island” type feel. This CD is a testimony to this musician’s versatility as both a composer and keyboardist. Having studied classical and jazz in college, this compilation speaks to his education and ability. The CD opens with Dizziness a delightful jazz solo piano piece that has a taste of a dreamy melody paired with soft energy. I Never Knew Her is another jazz delight with a very catchy melody. I particularly loved the ending quietly cascading toward the upper register of this melody–breathtaking.
With the jazz solo piano selections there are also renditions of the same pieces in ensemble style which gives an interesting musical twist. Distantly is my next favorite piano piece. It has such a sweet melody which gave me a feeling of happiness. I love the blending of jazz elements and sweet melody. Another moment of wow with the pp ending -outstanding. Island Beach Party has more of a spunky island feel and sound. I loved the blend of both piano and multiple instruments which Mr. Hagen performed on this energetic and fun piece! Dreamwave leads the listener into a new age direction with the sound of ocean waves in the background. This new age sound is gently blended with a slightly jazzy keyboard melody which is appealing. Ascension has a definite ambient sound of rising into outer space. The motion of the melody propels the listener forward into a space odyssey.
The next instrumental piece that I liked was Afternoon Waltz. This piece has a light engaging melody. I loved the ”waltzy” and happy feel this delightful track gave. My last two favorites on this CD are Clara’s Song and Quietly. These two ended up being my absolute favorites though I enjoyed all of the others. Clara’s Song has both a congenial melody seasoned with quiet confidence just adding to its already appealing sound. I loved it! My last favorite is Quietly. I prefer the piano version of this piece though the ensemble version was pleasant. Simply adored the delicate strength and wistful sighing towards introspection this song gave. The warmth and expressiveness by the artist is showcased in this lovely piece. The CD ends with this gorgeous track, wrapping up a well-rounded musical experience that engages the listener in musical curiosity. An interesting and varied showcase of sound by a talented composer, keyboardist and musician. I highly recommend it for this reason. Inward spaces….Outward places is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.
Reviewed by Darla Bower
This album is a 19 minute six song sampler. It contains tracks from a longer album released by him in 2014. This EP is a perfect blend of jazz and classical. The EP begins with “Dizziness” which is one of my favorites. It is a smooth and jazzy blend with subtle energy showcasing a versatile musician. Clementi’s Sonatina Op. 38 No. 1 is one of his shorter works for piano. Hagen plays it with confidence and playful gratitude. I really enjoyed it.
I Never Knew Her has a strong melody and is simply beautiful. I never get tired of jazz solo piano! Distantly is another piece with a strong melody and is heartfelt, drawing the listener in with its charming melody. Clara’s Song is the longest on the album. This melody pleases the listener with a combination of wistful dreaminess and quiet strength. I wanted to include some background information for this piece. Clara’s Song was a soundtrack for a 1918 silent movie for the University of Wisconsin-Madison silent movie festival. Wagner’s leitmotif technique was influential in this piece. Which makes this piece a jazz delight!
The last song on the album ended up being my favorite—Quietly. The title was not included on the track listing that I received so it was a very welcome surprise. I loved the quiet introspection this song made me feel. Brian is able to play both expressively and with confidence. This piece being played very expressively as if he is sharing his soul through each glorious note. I absolutely loved this piece!
Brian Hagen is a talented and versatile musician. He began piano at an early age and continued with piano through college studying both classical music and jazz. Both of these elements can be heard on Midnight Moods. By his own words his greatest jazz influence and experience was a course he took in college called Black Arts Jazz which exposed musicians to African American jazz. This course totally changed his perspective on the improvisational in both music and theater. It totally expanded his experience as a musician. Amazing! I would love to have a full length jazz album from this artist in the future. This musical delight is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Highly recommended.
You’re The One
Reviewed by Darla Bower
“You’re The One” is the fourth release by artist Brian Hagen and has 14 tracks. Tracks 1, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 14 are original compositions. The other seven tracks are classical pieces by several different composers. One thing I admire about this artist is his ability to play a variety of styles from original to classical and jazz. Brian shared with me that during the final recording sessions, a theme for the album emerged though not necessarily intentional. The cover was designed by his fiancée and true love Carly. Many of the tracks tell the story of how love affects people in different ways and his interpretation of that. The album musically expresses the way love can bring joy, happiness, sadness, heartbreak and even grieving.
The album begins with the title track, You’re The One. The song is a love story of when Brian and his fiancée met on that first day. It truly was love at first sight, not just a cliché. The sweet and pleasing melody represents that sentiment perfectly and tells of a genuine love story. It was very expressive and coaxes the listener to want more. My next favorite on the album was Nocturne, a piece by Alexander Borodin theme from String Quartet #2. I really loved the arrangement Hagen did of the piece. The dynamics are expressive and precise. The keys at the hands of this skilled artist express a gentle persuasion that lends to a breathtaking musical indulgence. Ended up being one of my favorites as well. There are many classical pieces by various composers included on this enchanting CD, make sure you don’t miss them!
Lonesome Road ended up being my absolute favorite jazzy number on the album. I love the combination of the jazz and soulful riffs of this catchy melody. The artist shared with me that this piece represented loneliness he felt at a time in his life and the piano a comforting companion of expression. Loved the trills and the stark intro and ending. Really felt the sentiment and meaning of Lonesome Road. Loved it!
Let It Flow was my next favorite on the album. The song represents having sympathy for someone who is experiencing intense grief. It musically captures a moment the artist personally witnessed of a someone he didn’t know openly sharing his grief. The song he said tells the story when you may feel helpless how to respond and the song wrote itself. Very moving and touching melody. What a beautiful moment in time.
The album closes with Sunflower and I absolutely LOVED this one! During the improv section of a tune he was performing by Oscar Peterson, Hagen said he began to change the chords and then let the progression flow. This was the magical result. I did love the chords in this one. The intro is bright, and the chords set the tone for a very happy mood for the listener. Couldn’t quit listening to it on repeat. Brilliant!
You’re The One is a poetic blend of original, classical and jazz. I found the combination to be very relaxing and colorful. The fusion of these different styles woven throughout just works in the flow of the album. Pieces by composers such as Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schumann are featured and are captivating. A perfect CD for cheerful unwinding and a welcomed addition to any musical collection. I highly recommend it.