Ian Parker

Moonlight Fantasies

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The title Moonlight Fantasies suggests a unifying theme for Ian Parker's 2011 release on Azica, but listeners who hear the whole CD may be a little puzzled by it. While the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, "Moonlight," sets up expectations that this might be an album of soothing nocturnal reveries, the rest of the album has little of that mood. This is not to say that the music isn't lovely and wonderfully played, which it is. But Parker's program explores the Romantic concept of the fantasy as a vehicle for fanciful invention, not just quiet reflection, so there are many expressions in the rest of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata and the Piano Sonata in E flat, Robert Schumann's Fantasie in C major, and Frédéric Chopin's Fantasy in F minor that go beyond dreamy impressions. Beethoven's two Op. 27 sonatas were a set, presenting the pieces as "Quasi una Fantasia," or almost a fantasy, allowing the freedom of that form to influence the shape of the works. Parker's playing is smooth, fluid, and round in tone for the most part, with little spikiness or hardness, except in the tempestuous Finale of "Moonlight," and in the martial second movement of Schumann's Fantasie. When Parker plays softly, there seems to be some muting of the tone, possibly through the mixing, but even though this at times contributes a mellow sound, the variety of attacks and flights of fancy in the pieces themselves do not make this a laid-back album for relaxation.

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