While some pianists contentedly sit at the keyboard and noodle away life’s doldrums, Randolf Smeets’ atmospheric music has a sense of purpose. The Dutchman breathes live through his Roland piano with his original works that could tell a myriad of stories dependent upon the mood and imagination of the listener.
Smeets boasts an impressive catalog of work featuring various orchestrations encompassing classical, jazz and other experimental genres in between. His latest album Works for Piano is, as the title suggests, solo piano compositions written during different musical periods over the last seven years. “Mun (The Imagination)” begins with a quiet ascending eighth note passage interjected with subtle block jazz chords followed by a simplistic single note arpeggiated phrase repetitively rising and falling. A quarter note triplet segues into the next portion of the song where rapid flourishes dance around the keyboard over a chiming pedal tone. Smeets’ playing is not only creative, but deliberate. His improvisations are evidentially well thought out with the time signature and tempo ingrained in his mind, rallentandos included, making his works sound more credible. The latter segment of the piece features a descending quarter note line that is an elongated and reversed version of the opening melodic pattern.
The hypnotic circling eighth notes in “Thoughts & Memories” create easy access to get lost in one’s own mind. Again, Smeets’ unhurried, considerate tempo seamlessly flows from the twirling eighths to a back and forth dialogue between two notes in the left hand and grace note chords in the right. The ending however is a big gaping hole of an unresolved chord. A common practice found in many of Smeets’ works is the rolling repetition of arpeggiated chords. Minus the exciting quicker tempo in the midsection of the piece, “Garden of Roses” sounds like an intriguing warped variation on Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”
Smeets’ most recent and shortest compositions on Works for Piano are “Three Short Pieces.” “Part I” is a lovely hemiola waltz. The syncopation is played gracefully and effortlessly over running eighth notes in the left hand. “Part II” is a variation on the latter half of the preceding piece followed by “Part III” which is an elongated albeit minimalistic variation on “Part II.”
The eldest and most personal work “Philantus Erythrophthalmus Part I” closes the album. Brimming with mysterious caesuras of differing length, the unaccompanied right hand plays a circuitous arpeggiated minor chord. Tension builds as the tempo quickens ever so slightly over a four note turn. Smeets draws out the accelerando to a frantic pace and then just as slowly begins to slacken the tempo as well as decrescendo. He exhibits excellent control and independent thought processes in the right and left hands throughout this passage and into the end of the piece. The second and third movements of this work feature flute and strings and are not included on this collection, but if “Part I” is any indication, the following variations must be equally as mind blowing.
Smeets is a highly creative composer by liberating musical constraints yet still keeping his works aurally pleasurable. Works for Piano is an inviting safe haven where listeners can enjoy experimental music, freely get wrapped up in it and not develop a migraine.
Reviewers Name: Kelly O’Neil
5 stars (out of 5)