When the world is chaotic and frightening – which is especially true at the moment – nothing feels better than escaping into a bold and inspired work of art. Pam Asberry’s “Moods, Impressions & Souvenirs” has this quality in abundance. It is inspired by the works and life of the Czech composer Zdeněk Fibich (1850-1900), but don’t let this scare you; The album is highly accessible and enjoyable. “Moods, Impressions & Souvenirs” is Pam Asberry’s best album to date, and a genuine ‘must-have’. No playlist of solo piano music in 2020 is complete without it.
Pam Asberry has a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in piano performance and piano pedagogy. She released her first album of original solo piano music, “Seashells in My Pocket“, in October 2017. Her second release, “Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind“, was awarded Best Holiday Album 2019 by EPR, and “The Presence of Wonder” (2019) was nominated as Best Solo Piano Album in the 2019 One World Music Radio Awards.
The Music and Life of Zdeněk Fibich
As indicated above, “Moods, Impressions & Souvenirs” pays homage to the Czech composer Zdeněk Fibich (1850-1900), a contemporary of Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana. During that time, Czech nationalism was at its height of popularity; however, Fibich, who was heavily influenced by the music of Weber, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Wagner, composed more in the style of the German Romantics. This, combined with some scandalous personal decisions he made towards the end of his life, caused him to fall from favor, and after his untimely death at the age of fifty, his music was all but forgotten.
“Happily, in recent years there has been a revival of interest in his work, which has utterly captured my imagination,” says Pam Asberry. “Along with symphonies, chamber music, and operas, Fibich wrote extensively for the piano, including a collection of nearly four hundred pieces – a musical diary of sorts – that he called “Moods, Impressions & Souvenirs.” The eleven pieces on my album bearing the same title were inspired by my own travel, memories, and feelings, and are composed in a variety of styles.”
Listening to the album opener “Praha Fantasy” with the above in mind, we are instantly transported to another time and place. The song is classical and modern; The elegance of the past is mixed with contemporary finesse. I believe the keyword here is ‘fantasy’. It represents the idea of Praha/Prague, a dream of experiencing beautiful architecture, history, and European culture. “Praha Fantasy” is a superb introduction to “Moods, Impressions & Souvenirs.”
Stingrays are one of the most beautiful creatures in the sea. Their graceful movements and wide, flat bodies are a joy to behold. Asberry’s “Swimming with Stingrays” is equally moving. I love how the sound of the piano seems to flow. The listener can easily picture the mighty stingray gliding over a colorful coral reef. The song has a beautiful build-up too.
Check out the complete album on Spotify:
The Astronomical Clock
“The Astronomical Clock” is an exciting piece! We are still in Prague. The clock was, according to Wikipedia, first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest clock still operating. The song has an excellent beat, so you can sense time passing by. I’m also amazed by the song’s many twists and turns. It is as if Asberry is fast-forwarding time from 1410 until today, with all of history’s drama, wars, and intrigues in mind. I’m happy to report that it ends on a high note.
“Adagio” is, as the title implies, a thoughtful and slow piece. It fits perfectly after “The Astronomical Clock”, making the listener reflect on the concept of time – and what adagio means. Perhaps we can learn something from it and try to live life a bit slower?
The song “Reminiscence” has a nice touch of melancholy. Asberry manages to describe conflicting emotions of loss and longing with gratitude and happiness. It is impossible not the be moved. “Cry from Lamanai” starts quite abruptly, a well-made in medias res. Is the piano crying? There’s intensity from the very first note that lasts throughout the song.
“Floating”, the album’s first single, is – in my opinion – a small masterpiece, a winner from start to finish! It starts gently, carefully laying the foundation of what’s to come. The listener is transported to a far-away place, floating away on a cloud. It is beautiful beyond words. Here Asberry is on par with George Winston, Liz Story, and Philip Aaberg. It is, in short, a triumph, destined to become a solo piano hit.
But don’t take my word for it. Check it out yourself:
Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava river in Prague. It is the bridge you see on the cover artwork. Asberry’s “A Walk Across the Charles Bridge” has a beautiful, flowing melody. If you close your eyes, it is almost like being there and admiring the historical bridge, which once was an important trade route between East and West Europe. At this stage, I think it is fitting to say that we all can learn so much from this album – and the best part; You can do it in your own pace. It is a treasure chest for the adventurous listener.
Yet again, the topic is daydreaming. “Reverie” makes the mind wander to distant places. It is a relaxing piece with a mesmerizing conclusion. Don’t be surprised if you start looking for the replay button, it is incredible. In the next song, we find ourselves in another European capital. “October in Paris” has the elegance and smoothness of classical masters such as Chopin and Debussy. It is light, yet right under the surface is a complexity telling stories of love and life. “White Poppy” ends the album remembering victims of war. The sad song makes us appreciate the beauty of the previous songs even more.
In conclusion: “Moods, Impressions & Souvenirs” by Pam Asberry is, in every way, a beautiful and captivating release. It has many layers, and it is entirely up to you how you want to approach the music. The 11 songs are all easy-listening, so you don’t have to do anything more than listening. Or you can listen to the music of Zdeněk Fibich and hear how it is reflected on “Moods, Impressions & Souvenirs”. It gives the album incredible replay value. Pam Asberry has delivered a phenomenal album, proving yet again that she is one of this genres’ finest solo piano artists. “Moods, Impressions & Souvenirs” is easily one of 2020’s best Solo Piano releases. Bravo!
Score: 96/100 – See our scoring policy
The album is available now on all platforms. For details, visit www.pamasberry.com