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 of…  See more details below


"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:
Sbme Special Mkts.

Related Subjects


  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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Album Credits

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Fantasies & Delusions: Music for Solo Piano 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Much in the same manner as Mr. Joel crafted Pop albums in the style of 50's doowop (on An Innocent Man) and late 60's beatle-esque, production heavy art pop (on The Nylon Curtain), he has fashioned an album inspired by and in the style of the masters of the nineteenth century Romantic Era. Richard Joo's playing is full of emotion and nuance, capturing the spirit intended; which, as with all pieces composed by Billy Joel, is both very melodic and very singable. Yes, even though it is written in a style probably unfamiliar to his numerous rock and roll fans, it still has his voice, and is still very reminicent of his 100 million selling catalogue; especially his earlier works. As a rock and roll artist, he was never a rock critics favorite, because his style of writing was always too infused with classical music. The writing herin is unpretentious and calls to an almost animal, instinctual, ''raw'' emotion, which is NOT in tune with the modern 12 tone trend of writing that has been popular for the last 50 years. This is an exceptional debut album, and is head and shoulders above the rest of the Rock-to-classical crossover artists like Paul Mccartney.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For those of us listeners who had musical training, it was always refreshing to listen to the latest Billy Joel album throughout the years. Anxiously awaiting what genre would be the common thread in his release, and how he would infuse that style in popular song. His influencies were always varied, but the romantic period piano style would consistantly appear in his melodic pieces. While listening to this collection, you will notice several obvious traits. He is respectful of the masters, he is not afraid of chromatics, and despite the variety of pieces his personal style comes through. Richard Joo does an exceptional job of playing what are varied and dynamic pieces. The piano is an incredible instrument and the romantic period was the heyday of piano composers. These compositions are as much a tribute to Mr. Joel's influences as it is a creative compilation of originals.
Guest More than 1 year ago
OK --let's just cut to the chase. If you like Billy Joel and are in the mood for some beautiful piano music, buy it. (It also makes for great background music on the weekend.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
For those of us who are not trained musical professionals, music serves to entertain, excite, soothe, inspire or touch us. The musical content of this effort by Mr. Joel has done that. It is sensitive, thought provoking, fun, pleasant to the ear. What could be more gratifying to a composer that to know that his efforts are appreciated by the listening public. Critical acclaim? He may not receive that from musical critics, but this CD is a treasure from my perspective. Thank you, Billy Joel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For those of you whose moms never had to make you practice, you'll love this album. Besides Chopin, Schumann and Bach, I think Mr. Joel has been listening and playing Francis Poulenc, He has incorporated jazz and folk harmonies in to music that is by all means not ''New Age''. There are even waltzes and tangos. Some of these pieces are several pages long and as you play through them (that's right you can buy this album in Schirmer style collection and they are note for note transcriptions) you can not wait to get on with it. No repeats just solid medium to medium-difficult nocturnes, fantasies, airs. Three of these tunes are in ''Movin Out'' the play with B. J. tunes. If you have fantasies and delusions of being a professional piano man but have to keep your day job, you will love this album!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently presented an honest but scathing review of Billy Joel's attempts at serious music. I wish to present the other side of the story. Last Sunday I had my first master class with Billy Joel; it came impromptu style in the form of an unexpected phone call and certainly was unlike any I have experienced to date. I couldn't state with precision who was teacher or student because I found myself learning more than I ever expected about a rock legend who was also man of intense emotional sincerity. I think I can offer an alternate means of understanding Billy's "Fantasies and Delusions" so I will happily lighten up on my previous words. I was very touched when Billy told me a primary reason he wrote these pieces to show a love for the composers whose style he emulated. Fantasies and Delusions should be received as his personal tribute to these composers. They should also be understood as Billy¿s desire to share this appreciation with his fans with the hopes that hearing his Fantasies and Delusions; they might continue to develop further appreciation for serious music. It was more than evident to me that Billy has this passion himself as well as some very sound musical instincts. Now if Billy can get all his fans to listen to Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin soon they will be listening to Bartok, Messiaen and Ligeti. Since I have taught music appreciation most of my life, this truly would be a miracle as most students first have to commit to at least some degree of hard core education in order to make the greater part of the genius of these composers accessible to their ears and minds. Once they accept this, the rewards are a hundredfold. But what I think Billy tries to do here is exploit by distilling out the easiest component of music for him to grasp and appreciate, which is the melody. Let¿s face it, Billy has been a pops master of the melodic and lyrical all throughout his career, and this element is his second nature as much as ¿New York State of Mind¿ is almost part of the DNA of all New Yorkers. But to be honest in understanding the significance of melody in any of the great composers works, it is just one of many components and most of the greatest works are not lyrical in nature. Beethoven was rotten at melody as compared to Schubert. Beethoven developed short melodic motifs as part of a far grander structure while Schubert was an uncommon master of developing and evolving melody. In the preponderance of works of either of these men and virtually all the others, melody or melodic motif was just the seed, which they were capable of transforming into a beautiful rose or a magnificent oak tree. Contrary to what some may think about the long term survival of these masters, it obviously wasn¿t the anachronism of electronic media via radio or the short term sale of millions of copies of recordings, rather it was the infectious germ of their creativity which implanted in the minds of academics and top performers throughout the generations and centuries. They withstood the daily test of time as music concurrently continued its evolutionary progression. All composers are subjected to criticism in the extreme, and in similar accordance to harsh laws of natural selection, the ones we see today are the ones that survived. After hearing Billy explain how emotionally significant some of his pieces are, and I in understanding just how much effort he spent to put them to notes, I have to say quoting Schumann: "hats off" to a genuine music lover for venturing with unaffected valiance into this very discriminating region as a vehicle for sharing his affections. No he isn't trying to rewrite musical history with his name in the books alongside Beethoven or Schumann, he is just doing a labor of love as best he can and putting his heart into it. Billy, your first words to me were "one star is too generous, I put eight years of my life into this". I seriously misjudged your intents, and I respect you for te
Anonymous More than 1 year ago