Listening to Karen Biehl’s debut album “Starlight Dreams” got me thinking about Plato’s famous quote: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” In Biehl’s music there’s a remarkable sensibility and existential longing. It makes you see the world in new ways. “Starlight Dreams” is, simply put, an outstanding solo piano debut.
Karen Biehl has studied with former Metropolitan Opera star Thomas Hayward before completing her master’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She is also classically trained in piano and violin. She is the creator of the “Journey to True Love“, “Journey to True Health” and “Journey to True Purpose” guided meditation series. For “Starlight Dreams”, released in November 2018, the readers and listeners here on Newagemusic.guide awarded Biehl the Best Solo Piano 2018 award. She just released a new guided meditation single called “Portal to Peace“.
The latest episode of Magic Piano is dedicated to Starlight Dreams:
Some piano releases are gentle and have a soft sound. This is not that kind of album. Biehl has plenty of stories to tell and a lot on her mind. Every song has a certain drive. “Awakenings” kicks off the album in a fast and forceful manner. The song is not just about one awakening, but several. It contains a realization that a lot of change is needed – and the time for this change is limited. It is a call to action, hence the speed. I think it is a fantastic start to the album! Biehl makes us pay attention from the very first note.
The song “Invocation” is played on a somewhat different piano, like a modern clavichord. It is a song filled with gratitude and positive emotions, like a prayer for the thankful heart. There are many classical references here. No wonder KMStudio Classical Radio has had this song on their top 100 list for over two years.
Meditation on a Moonlit Lake
With the same intensity as “Awakenings”, the song “Union” marches along with purpose and force. It is just over a minute long, but it makes you believe that this is a union that will last forever.
I would gladly buy the album only to get the next song, “Meditation on a Moonlit Lake”. It is a small neo-classical masterpiece! I love how Biehl takes an idea, a vision of nighttime meditation by a lake, and transform it into music. The gorgeous cover artwork puts our mind on the right track. You only have to close your eyes, and you are suddenly there by the water, meditating. The song has such elegance and grace. Thankfully the album also includes a “full version” with tasteful synth backing, placed at the very end, so we get to re-experience it once more before the end.
On Angel Wings
The romantic atmosphere continues on “Chanson Des Vents”, “On Angel Wings” and “The Journey”. “Starlight Dreams” is a very mature debut album, filled with poetry and wisdom. “The Journey” has the atmosphere of a fairy tale, leading us deeper and deeper into its secret sphere.
My favorite piece on the album is the ultra-fast “Raindrops”. Like movie rain, it is pouring down in buckets. Each note is a raindrop. I like how Biehl is using every key on the piano, effortlessly shifting from low to high notes. It is as if the focus is being changed to a new scene, looking at the falling rain from a different and captivating perspective.
The two next songs “Starlight Waltz” and “Promenade” have a nice neo-classical sound. It fits beautifully with the starlight theme, making us think of composers of the past while admiring Bihel’s melodic talent. The colorful promenade leads us over to a gentle “Autumn Amble”, a homage to the circle of life. The song is only 2 minutes long. Just like Autumn, the song is quickly but a memory. How wonderful!
The album closer (if you don’t count “Meditation on a Moonlit Lake”, which I think of as a bonus track) is called “The Beginning”. It has a distinct feeling of purpose and dedication. Notice the few quick stops in the melody, then the song picks up and carries on.
In conclusion: “Starlight Dreams” by Karen Biehl is one of the best solo piano debuts in years! Its fusion of classical music and contemporary instrumental make this into a very satisfying listen. The album is nicely balanced, and you may enjoy every song independently. The album has on been out a few months, but “Meditation on a Moonlit Lake” is on its way to becoming a modern classic. To sum the review up in one word: bravo!
Score: 96/100 – See how I rate music here.
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