Sufjan Stevens releases ‘Reflections’
SUFJAN STEVENS RELEASES REFLECTIONS. PERFORMED BY PIANISTS TIMO ANDRES AND CONOR HANICK
SHARES FULL ALBUM VISUALS
OUT NOW ON ASTHMATIC KITTY RECORDS
Watch the visuals for the full album here:
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Today, Asthmatic Kitty Records releases Reflections, the studio recording of Oscar and Grammy-nominated composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens’ score for the ballet by choreographer Justin Peck, performed by pianists Conor Hanick and Timo Andres. In conjunction, Asthmatic Kitty presents visualisations for each movement, with unique animations by Stephen Halker of Jessica Slaven’s original Reflections artwork. Reflections marks Stevens’ second recorded release of his compositions for piano — following 2019’s The Decalogue, which also features Andres’ piano performance — and Stevens’ first composition written for two pianos.
Originally commissioned by Houston Ballet and premiered in March 2019, Stevens composed Reflections for longtime collaborator and choreographer Peck’s ballet which features 11 dancers. It is characteristic Stevens: dynamic, melodic, memorable, emotionally resonant, and playful. The studio recording of Reflections was engineered, mixed and mastered by Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio. Comprised of seven movements, the recording benefits from lively and intelligent interpretations by pianists Andres and Hanick, who are both composers as well.
The Reflections artwork by Jessica Slaven is reminiscent in palette and form of the mid-century works by the Delaunays. At first glance, the individual cells appear to be shifting, moving at odds with each other – but on closer inspection, each part is actually linked to the other. As with Reflections, every kaleidoscopic turn brings new shades and shapes, tightening the weave; twisting, refracting, and mirroring. Of the animation, Halker comments, “The motion design was dictated by the forms of Slaven’s artwork and the sonic characteristics of each piece. The visuals and compositions are so dynamic that the motion design was just an act of introducing the two forms to each other and watching them interact and mirror themselves”.
In discussing the artwork, Slaven says, “In these drawings, I wanted to see what would happen if I created a series of large compositions and then cut them apart to attend to each of the cut components individually, away from the eventual finished work. The conversations and relationships that developed once the component pieces came back together were unexpected, and I found that they revealed themselves both instantaneously and very slowly. Sufjan’s idea to animate the drawings and paintings was a great surprise and joy, as it takes the original elements of chance, circumstance, and re-combination much further. The emotions and tensions created in Stephen’s animations are a further revelation into the language of the works, and his visualisations return the wholes back into new parts, yielding vibrant new conversation”.
There is a long tradition of composing for duo pianos — from John Adams’ Hallelujah Junction to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major. Stevens was happy to further explore the form with Reflections, and see it interpreted through Andres and Hanick’s talents. Andres says, “The music has an innate theatricality, drama, and variety that seems to suggest movement—not in a toe-tapping, groove-oriented way, but instead something both grander and quirkier. It was a pleasure to work with Sufjan to find the right interpretive balance of showmanship and intimacy in this music, and I was lucky to be joined in the process by the great Conor Hanick, whose playing I’ve known and admired for years”.
Hanick agrees, “Reflections – for all its kaleidoscopic virtuosity and stylistic variety – is a piece about movement. You can practically see its shapes and vectors form in real-time, gliding, tumbling, floating. Even in a body of work defined by boldness and contrast, Sufjan’s music in Reflections feels daring”.
Reflections is now available now on CD and LP. The score is available via G. Schirmer Inc./Wise Music Classical. Purchase here:
Conor Hanick – Laura Desberg
Sufjan Stevens – Dawn Miller
Timo Andres – Michael Wilson
High-res images are available here
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