Album: Rendezvous In Paris
Artist: Lena Natalia

 Rendezvous In ParisRendezvous In Paris is the follow up release by modern classical pianist/composer Lena Natalia to her critically acclaimed and award winning debut album Sundays In Paris, which was a Gold Medal Awards Winner for Best Album and Minimalist Piano Melodies by the Global Music Awards. That level of recognition is quite an honor for a debut recording. This new release revisits some familiar places while continuing to explore the diverse musical and emotional landscapes of Parisian life.


In my interview with Lena, she related a number of interesting anecdotes about the inspiration for this album, which I will share here to provide the reader with greater insight into this talented Chicago-based artist and her creative process. In Lena’s words: “When I was blessed with the opportunity to live in France for several years, I left the US not knowing any French or knowing a soul there. The experience forced me to listen to everyone and everything around me with an intense focus and ‘fresh ears.’ Car horns, sirens, daily language, protests, café conversations, the cadence of mothers chastising their children or angry commuters exchanging un-pleasantries—everything I heard was conducted in tones I hadn’t been accustomed to hearing before. The ‘sound environment’ of Paris, coinciding with my learning French, inevitably changed my composing and the types of melodies I wanted to coax out of the keys. My compositions on this album are, in effect, my attempt at translating the richness of my daily life there in terms that words cannot adequately express.”

Lena’s music has been described as “minimalist,” and this bit of back story from our interview sheds some lightLena Natalia on that: “After having lived in a tiny, cramped apartment like most of the city’s other twelve million inhabitants, in a building that I was almost certain would collapse at any moment, I truly learned the meaning behind the phrase, ‘Less is more,’ because I lived it, daily—I had less stuff, less space to put it in, much less quiet and far less modern conveniences; and thus, I learned how to savor whatever treasures came my way, whether it was in the form of a kind gesture from a stranger, the perfect coffee, a fresh perfectly-hued baguette just out of the oven, or a peaceful walk along the Seine River. Now that I am back in the US, I continue to try to take a minimalist approach not only with my music, but also with my life, in terms of trying to attain/maintain peace, happiness and good health with less things, less calories, less stress, and less excuses. It is far from easy but it is my goal.”


Lena’s minimalist leanings were evident right from the start with the opening composition entitled “Chiaroscuro.” The title draws from the Italian word meaning “light-dark,” and dates back to The Renaissance. In art it refers to “the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition.” While the term is also used in cinema and photography, it is interesting to see it used in a musical context. Lena’s music on this piece brought to mind composer Phillip Glass, who although generally described as a minimalist, preferred to define his work as: “music with repetitive structures.” This definition also serves as a good description of Lena’s style on “Chiaroscuro.” While I related to this composition on an intellectual level, the next track, “Quilts,” for me, had more of an emotional resonance, and provided an interesting stylistic contrast. I also found an additional distinction between the first track, which was in constant motion, and the third song, entitled “Fifth Eye,” that made greater use of the element of space in its composition. Lena mentioned earlier, her music is a way to communicate her experiences in a way that words can’t. However, what she shared about the next track does reveal the song’s inspiration quite descriptively: “The track entitled, “Chaleur” means ‘warmth’ in French. That title is a bit ironic, as I was always cold in my 150-year-old Parisian apartment, no matter how high I had the radiators turned up, how much tea I drank, or how much leek soup I ate. Even though I’m from Chicago and am well versed in sub-zero temperatures, the dampness and single-paned windows made things bone-achingly cold! So I was always freezing until about July when the sands of the Sahara would kick up immense amounts of dust clouds and unbearably high temperatures north into Europe, and then it was impossible to cool down or even breathe without effort. Voila!” As can be expected, the piece is quite emotionally evocative.

Pont+Neuf+15%2C+noche The title of track 8, “Pont Neuf,” is inspired by the name of oldest standing bridge across the river Seine in Paris and dates back to the sixteenth century. Like this stately structure, Lena’s musical reflection of it is elegant and graceful as it unfolds in 3/4 time. The sparse simplicity of a track called “Alone At Twilight,” perfectly conveys the feeling of solitude portrayed in its title. A bit more dynamic and dramatic is the next piece, “Midwinter Tea,” which is perhaps a reference to all the hot tea Lena mentioned drinking to keep warm in her freezing cold apartment. The album draws to a lovely conclusion with a composition entitled “En Balade,” which in French refers to a walk or a stroll. I’d like to think it was inspired by Lena’s final walk around the streets of Paris, before leaving for home, which would go perfectly with this being the last song on the album. But it is a simply beautiful piece, that whatever the inspiration, makes for a graceful conclusion to the recording.


While Lena’s music is considered minimalist in its composition, this description could also apply to the length of the songs, with the shortest being just over 2 minutes and the longest at 3:40. In this regard, Rendezvous In Paris is like a collection of short stories or slices of life based on Lena’s experiences and emotions in a foreign land. As she shared in our interview: “The people and places around me are the greatest sources of inspiration – much of my music is a reflection of situations I’ve experienced, or thoughts I may be working through in another part of my mind as I sit down to play; the compositions in their final form are in some way a commentary on what I have perceived.”


Beautiful-Rose-On-Piano-Keyboard-wide-iOne other thing that Lena shared about music in general, as someone who played the piano, oboe, and English horn competitively from an early age, and learned how to read music before she learned how to read books is that: “Music education has always been an integral part of my life and I am passionate about sharing its benefits with anyone who will listen. I am intrigued and excited by what researchers have recently been uncovering in terms of the impacts of early childhood music education on brain development and the clinical applications of music for health and rehabilitation purposes. In a way, science is finally putting into words what musicians and composers have always intuited, but perhaps have not been able to articulate simply because we didn’t have any data behind us. Now we have proof! Music heals.”


With this in mind, I’ll share one final thought from Lena: “Music is my method of expression and of communication. The piano often helps me work out what’s in my head and in my heart, and gives voice to my conclusions. It is a great pleasure to share my compositions with others and have my music resonate with them and find meaning, as well.” It is appropriate that she mentions “head and heart” as I experienced a nice balance of each in her composing and playing. Lena Natalia’s music is eloquent in its understatement, and emotionally evocative without a need to be ornate or overly dramatic. Rendezvous In Paris is like a travelogue of physical places as well as emotional spaces and makes for a charming and enchanting listening experience.



Click the links below to hear samples and/or purchase this album:



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