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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
Other reviews from The Sounding Board by R J Lannan:
  Perspective by Helen Jane Long, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 7/18/2018
  Every Moment by Joseph L Young, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 7/18/2018
  Mosaic by David Wahler, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 6/20/2018
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Almost Home
By Lena Natalia
Label: Atelier RLS
Released 7/7/2017
Almost Home tracks
1. Almost Home  
2. Leaving the Nest  
3. The Gardner  
4. Kyoto  
5. Chess Players  
6. Acceptance Letter  
7. Open Door  
8. The Solitary Tailor  
9. St. Malo  
10. Coffeehouse Glances  
11. The Knight  
12. The Stoic  
You Will Enjoy the Journey
You can put Lena Natalia's latest release Almost Home in the What's New and Exciting list. What I thought was going to be just another good solo piano album turned out to be an enthralling endeavor into a neo-symphonic orchestration and piano for a modern world experience. The twelve contemporary tracks have passion and grace and beauty. There is a dreamlike quality to the music, and frankly, I did not want to wake up.

Natalia's theme, although not untried before, is one of longing, of hope, and of returning. She accomplishes her mission with aplomb and fervidness. Sometimes being away is not just measured in miles, but in sadness and in experience and in tears. Natalia's music are scenarios, little plays that speak of loneliness and journeys of the heart. Her compositions are wonderfully vivid and harmonically resonant. Let us hear where she went.

I have to say I was taken aback by the sense of urgency in the opening number Almost Home, but then it is easily understood. To be within reach of your goal is an exciting one. All the time spent away, yearning for a return is translated into fluid melody full of ambition and hope. It was a great start. You are swept along in Lena's music as it has movement, flow, and energy.

I thought it melancholy at first, but there is a hint of exuberance in the song Leaving Home. On one hand, the adventure begins. On the other, you are leaving behind everything and everyone you love. Sometimes the venture is worth it, sometimes less so. However, the shame is in not trying at all. Lena's piano melody is dynamic but leaves you with a bit of sadness.

Acceptance Letter was a favorite on Almost Home. It is easy for creative people to understand, this writer included. It is something not many know about. You work arduously for so long. You think it might be right, but you are so full of self-doubt that you go back to the beginning. You change your approach, you do it again. Finally, with a great deal of fear, you offer it to the world. When you are told that it is just right, the sense of validation is like a rebirth. Lena captures that renaissance in her music.

In the tune Open Door, you can feel the sense of doubt, as if the person does not know how to make that first step. There a hesitation and frankly I don't know if that step was ever taken. The mood of the solo piano conception is gray, clouded, and almost unsure. Perhaps the lingering doubt is what makes the tune so listenable as well as memorable.

On the west coast of France is the walled city of St. Malo. Like Lena's song of the same name, it is strong and enduring. It is the home of pirates and philosophers, writers and explorers. The music, like the city, is somber. It is a musical barrier if you will to the mundane, or maybe it is a wall set up to protect a heart. The melody was provocative in its intensity. The unknown issues seemed black and white.

The next track I listened to was called The Knight. It has rumbling, bassy organ background and it is well balanced with its main theme of mystery. There are clouds obstructing the stars, there is a lonely road out in the country, and a rider chasing the moon. The tune has a lot of movement that is smooth, forward, and relentless. You are drawn into the narrative. You want to follow. You want to know.

The final cut is called The Stoic. If you are almost home, then I cannot imagine getting there to see someone like this. Natalia's tune is memorable in that it is a tempestuous sortie of emotions. There is chaos and there is pain. I think I liked it because of its honesty.

Lena Natalia is on the Yellow Brick road as a composer and pianist. Her music captivates you the minute you hear it. Her compositions are complex in structure and scope. Her passion is evident. I was trying find someone to compare her with and I come up with Helen Jane Long after a fashion. I look forward to more from this young Chicagoan with a great deal of talent. Highly recommended.
Rating: Very Good +   Very Good +
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 3/30/2018
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