Landscapes Of The Heart
Reviewed by Darla Bower
This is the fourth album of composer/pianist Gary Schmidt and was produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton. The CD includes other talented instrumentalists as well. As the title suggests, this CD will touch and draw landscapes on your heart while contemplating these lovely piano-based meditations. Gary is a self-taught pianist who later studied piano at both Tyndale College and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Though he currently resides in Colorado, he grew up in Quebec, Canada. The album is compiled of eleven original pieces by Gary and two pieces by Erik Satie – Gnossienne no. 1 and no. 5. The clean lines and dynamic playing by this pianist are expressed beautifully in Landscapes of the Heart.
Landscapes of the Heart opens with The Beauty We Love. This composition is very expressive. With Eugene Friesen on cello, this piece is a reflective and delightful blend of piano and cello. I love the combination of both instruments. When the Silence Speaks is both a gentle and poetic melody. I found this song to be soothing; creating a meditative calm with the gentle ending fading into silence. One of my favorites on this CD. Reaching into Romance speaks of a sweet embrace and melodically reflects the innocence of romance. The expectation of a romantic embrace building in the piece reminding us that romance speaks musically. Waltz in 2/4 ended up being one of my favorites on the album. Most waltzes are in 3/4, so I listened to this waltz with expectation of delight and it did not disappoint with its creative mixing of 2/4 and 3/4 measures. I love the combination of piano and violin. Charlie Bisharat on violin lends to the sweetness of this waltz. Loved this polished waltz, well done!
A Blanket of White was another favorite on the album. This piano solo is enveloping and its cascading melody reminds me of the quiet beauty of fallen snow. The peaceful, white snow falling in the stillness of this musical escapade. The melody lending to a beautiful landscape in your mind. Loved it! You Already Have Wings is a delightful trio of piano, with Will Ackerman on guitar and Jill Haley on English horn. The melody left me with a bright feeling and ready to fly on a new journey. I ended up liking the repeating melody, with the other musicians playing over the piano part. Found the combination both interesting and unexpected. Loved both the Gnossienne pieces by Satie. Eric Satie it turns out is Will Ackerman’s hero classical composer. Gary plays both of these pieces with very expressive dynamics and clean polished lines. I loved the swelling crescendo in piece no. 1 and the expressive dynamics on no. 5. A “wow” moment in listening. Both of these songs are played as written and draw the listener in. What a perfect pairing to feature both no. 1 and no. 5. These two are my absolute favorites on Landscapes of the Heart.
The next track Restless is very aptly titled. This piece is in contrast to the other pieces though the Satie pairing sets the stage for the melancholic expressiveness of this gem. With Jill Haley on English horn, Restless is a melodic lament seeking rest, leaving the listener desiring more. I loved the ending of this piece! Solus boasts a sweet and inviting melody closing out the meditative landscape of this piano and instrumental delight. The ending in the upper register cajoles the listener into peaceful melodic reverie. I absolutely loved the ending and loved this piece. Ended up being another favorite on the album! This album promised piano-based meditations and delivers this expectation masterfully and musically. I highly recommend Landscapes of the Heart! For more information on this talented composer, please visit Gary’s website at -www.apianist.com. This beautiful album is available on his website, Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes.
Even For A Moment
Reviewed by Pam Asberry
Following the success of his 2016 album “Landscapes of the Heart,” Heart Dance Records pianist and composer Gary Schmidt’s has released his second album “Even for a Moment.” With twelve new original solo piano pieces and two classical selections, this album is a pleasure from start to finish.
The album opens with “If This Is the Time,” its sweet, lyrical melody balanced by a buoyant left hand accompaniment. Cellist Hannah Alkire joins Schmidt on “Inside This River,” reflective, almost melancholy melody twisting and turning over the upper registers of the piano. The mood shifts in the middle section – the romantic melody and buoyant accompaniment is reminiscent of a romantic barcarolle – which is followed by a brief return to the opening theme ending on a somber note. And in the third track, “Face That Lights My Face” Schmidt teams with his brother, Roger Schmidt, on acoustic guitar; the two instruments blend perfectly in joyful harmony.
“A Train Leaves the City,” its rich, resonant bass contrasting with a tinkling melody in the upper register, beautifully captures that feeling when someone beloved must leave you despite your wishes to the contrary. Flutist Sherry Finzer joins Schmidt in “The Breath At Dawn,” featuring an ostinato bass left hand and a delightful interplay between the eloquent right hand melody and the deep, rich flute. There is nothing that creates greater anticipation and sense of well-being than the soft light of predawn on a cloudless morning and this piece captures those feelings perfectly.
There are two classical tracks on the album; the first, Handel’s “Minuet in G minor” (arranged by Wilhelm Kempf) is a Baroque delight. In this performance, Schmidt’s classical sensitivities are evident. At the age of six, after hearing a classical piano recording owned by his mom, he declared to his parents that he would be a pianist when he grew up and proceeded to teach himself how to play. At age fourteen, without any formal training, he won third prize in the prestigious Jeunesses Musicales piano competition in Quebec, after which he began formal studies. Most impressive!
“Even for a Moment” is a favorite. Once again, Schmidt is joined by cellist Hannah Alkire; the sparkling melody of the piano contrasting superbly with the rich depths of the cello in a way that is almost conversational. In “Sub Tide,” combining forces again with his brother on the guitar, Schmidt creates an impressionist style painting of being underwater. “Simply By Looking” is another exquisite collaboration between piano and cello as is “The Light Seems to Move.” Another sound painting, this one alternates between flashes of bright light, then steady moving light not so bright, then strange diffuse lights illuminating clouds. “Crescent Light,” a little gem of a piano solo, is the perfect follow-up.
Schmidt collaborates with flutist Sherry Finzer again in “No Better Gift.” Simple but splendid, is another favorite. I have always felt that Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” is one of the most transcendent pieces of music ever written and this ethereal arrangement for solo piano by Wilhelm Kempf and its heartfelt performance by Schmidt do not disappoint. The finale, “Postlude to a Moment” brings a gentle conclusion to an album filled with beautiful moments.
Schmidt believes his life’s mission is “enhancing life through music” and this passion and spirit shines through in every piece on this album. Very highly recommended!