Ólafur Arnalds / Alice Sara Ott

The Chopin Project

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This week's entry in the very-much-like-nothing-heard-before sweepstakes comes from Icelandic electronic musician and composer Ólafur Arnalds and German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott, whose recording of Chopin waltzes inspired the project. What's here are recordings of Chopin piano compositions, plus original compositions by Arnalds based on motifs from Chopin. In one case, Eyes Shut/Nocturne in C minor (track 6), the two are combined. Arnalds' pieces employ his own electronic keyboard textures, plus a live string quintet. On top of this, the pianos are vintage instruments hunted down in Reykjavik, and the ambience, if you will, was manipulated by recording in various venues and with various microphones there. And, on top of all this, Arnalds adds ambient soundscapes (noise, sounds of conversation, whispers, etc.) to the music. The ideas seem packed in a bit thick. The string quintet, for example, was a sound unused by Chopin, and it introduces an element that seems discordant with the source material. But there is a major X factor working in favor of this release: nobody has ever tried anything much like this, either with Chopin or with any other composer, and it just might be the beginning of something new and important. Check it out!

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