Fantasies & Delusions: Music for Solo Piano

Fantasies & Delusions: Music for Solo Piano

4.5 8
by Billy Joel
     
 

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"Vienna waits for you," goes the refrain to a Billy Joel song. And Vienna waits for him, too -- or it did. The city of Beethoven and Brahms has a new arrival: the piano man himself, whose Fantasies & Delusions: Music for Solo Piano -- Joel's classical music debut -- was recorded there by pianist Richard Joo. Although Joel's pop songs may betray the influence ofSee more details below

Overview

"Vienna waits for you," goes the refrain to a Billy Joel song. And Vienna waits for him, too -- or it did. The city of Beethoven and Brahms has a new arrival: the piano man himself, whose Fantasies & Delusions: Music for Solo Piano -- Joel's classical music debut -- was recorded there by pianist Richard Joo. Although Joel's pop songs may betray the influence of Paul McCartney and Elton John, his classical music tastes evidently tend toward Chopin and Debussy. They are the principal models here, and the ten works on this album by and large mimic 19th-century styles of keyboard composition. The opening "Reverie (Villa D'Este)," for example, begins with Debussy-like dreaminess, moving into a restless middle passage that is fleetingly reminiscent of a Chopin ballade. "Soliloquy (On a Separation)" follows much the same design, and the three waltzes are unmistakably Chopin-esque. The Invention in C Minor, in contrast, is a study in Bach-style counterpoint, and the album closes in a lighter vein with "Air (Dublinesque)," a folksy, Irish-flavored piece that begins wistfully and ends with a jaunty jig. On the whole, Joel displays a well-developed harmonic sense and a flair for idiomatic piano writing. He clearly has an ear for the Romantic style -- as well as a knack for recapturing it. Joo, a British/Korean pianist and former grand-prize winner of the Stravinsky International Piano Competition, plays with expression and sensitivity, although he lacks a touch of finesse. Joel knew classical music critics would be chomping at the bit to pass judgment on this -- the playful title is surely in part self-derogatory, in part an affront to would-be critics. But Fantasies & Delusions is plainly a serious effort, and while Joel's classical personality does not feel fully formed, he should be congratulated for the album's successes and adventurous spirit. It is a satisfying and praiseworthy achievement.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It was pretty clear that Billy Joel had run out of steam by 1993's River of Dreams. He had shown signs of wearing on its predecessor, Storm Front, but his trademark melodic gift disappeared on River of Dreams and his words, even performances, were bone-tired -- he even called the last song "The Last Song (No More Words)." So, it was no great surprise that he did not rush to record a follow-up, and when he started murmuring toward the end of the decade that perhaps he wasn't interested in pop music anymore, nobody who paid attention could have been surprised. And it wasn't a surprise that he decided to turn toward classical music since, by that point, it had become a cliché for pop musicians who wanted to be taken seriously. What is a surprise is that the resulting project, Fantasies & Delusions, is pretty successful -- it's a nice collection of pleasingly modest, melodic solo piano pieces, mainly sonatas, written by Joel and performed by Richard Joo. Joel succeeds because he kept his ambitions reasonable and was smart about presentation. He didn't compose symphonies, he wrote piano pieces and passed them off to somebody who could play them dexterously in the way they were meant to be played. It's actually charming, since it's possible to hear Joel diligently working within the forms of classical music while retaining the recognizable melodic flair of his pop work. These are still not pieces that you'll wind up humming, but as pop/classical crossovers go, this is among the best in recent memory -- better than McCartney's operettas and symphonies, better than Joe Jackson's stilted work. And it's a hell of a lot more rewarding than River of Dreams.
Blender - J.D. Considine
A thoroughly ambitious and enjoyable change of pace.
New York Post
Fantasies & Delusions is a bold album where the Piano Man takes a giant risk, entering an arena where few pop artists are willing - or able to go... a lovely batch of songs that reveal Joel, as a composer, to be a closet fan of Mozart, Chopin and Strauss.

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Product Details

Release Date:
02/01/2008
Label:
Sbme Special Mkts.
UPC:
0886972388229
catalogNumber:
723882
Rank:
45241

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Reverie (Villa D'Este)
  2. Waltz # 1 (Nunley's Carousel)
  3. Aria (Grand Canal)
  4. Invention In C Minor
  5. Soliloquy (On A Separation)
  6. Suite For Piano (Star-Crossed): I. Innamorato
  7. Suite For Piano (Star-Crossed): II. Sorbetto
  8. Suite For Piano (Star-Crossed): III. Delusion
  9. Waltz # 2 (Steinway Hall)
  10. Waltz # 3 (For Lola)
  11. Fantasy (Film Noir)
  12. Air (Dublinesque)

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