Alejandro Franov: Melodia
Alejandro Franov: Solo Piano
Though Alejandro Franov's a multi-instrumentalist whose abilities extend to guitar, accordion, flute, percussion, and sitar, it's his gifts as a pianist that are documented on these two releases: Melodia, a re-issue of his first solo piano release (originally issued in 2005), and Solo Piano, his latest collection. There are commonalities between them—the appearance of “Beijing” on both, for example—but differences, too. Melodia was recorded on May 22, 2005 inside a Swedish Church in Buenos Aires with Franov playing a Malsmjo grand piano, whereas Solo Piano was recorded in his home studio in El Bolson, Rio Negro in Argentina with Franov playing a Yahama grand; that Solo Piano was recorded at home enabled him to draw inspiration from his immediate environment, including a sacred mountain known as Piltriquitron and the Otamendi nature reserve (the latter displayed on the album cover). Another difference is that the earlier recording features seventeen short pieces whereas the newer one presents eight longer studies (at seven minutes, “Despedida” seems almost Wagnerian by comparison).
Though many of them would certainly sound at home in the concert hall, his compositions aren't sober classical studies but instead inviting pieces heavy on melody and characterized by lyricism and warmth. The listener, in other words, is made to feel more like a guest lucky enough to have been invited into Franov's home for an afternoon of music-making as opposed to someone attending a formal concert. He performs his material in a relaxed and casual manner that shouldn't be confused with aimless or indifferent. The recordings leave no doubt as to Franov's technical ability, but technique is consistently used in the service of the composition at hand, and there's a confidence and effortlessness to his playing that also strengthens its appeal.
Melodia presents a rich blend of ballad and uptempo material, with an insistent setting, such as “Siglos” or “Opsigno,” often followed by a gentler one like “Dentro” or “Himno.” Moods of varying kinds are explored in these elegant pieces, ponderous, impressionistic, wry, and nostalgic among them. Only two of the seventeen tracks push past the four-minute mark, with Franov packing a wealth of music into the album's forty-three minutes. Solo Piano is slightly shorter at thirty-six, but it's no less appealing, especially when the music is so heartfelt and lyrical in tone. The longer running times of the individual tracks allow ample room for exploration, and his handling of the pieces, which again alternate between introspection (“Para la mbira”) and extroversion (the jazzy “Impasiones”), often makes them seem like records of Franov thinking aloud. A palpable sense of intimacy is conveyed by the recording given that he sometimes, such as during “Otamendi” and “El ombú,” can be heard humming along with his piano playing. It's also not hard to understand why he would revisit “Beijing,” considering that it's the prettiest and most affecting thing on the earlier album and makes a strong claim to being so on the new one, too.