Nils Frahm: Wintermusik
Sonic Pieces

Nils Frahm recorded his remarkable, half-hour Wintermusik on the 21st and 22nd of December, 2007, originally intending for it to be given to family and friends as a Christmas present. Luckily for us, Sonic Pieces' Monique Recknagel happened by chance to hear Frahm play when he opened for F.S. Blumm at the Berlin gallery space Antje Öklesund in October 2007, and proceeded to not only obtain his name but arrange for that Christmas present to be made available to listeners everywhere.

Frahm weaves multiple melodic lines into delicate and highly mobile wholes that are as entrancing as they are pretty. Though it's unclear whether it's improvised or through-composed (or some combination of both), Frahm's music exudes a spontaneous quality and an organic character in the degree to which the melodic materials so naturally entwine themselves into elegant counterpoint. The mini-album's centerpiece, the seventeen-minute “Tristana” is even more wistful and melancholy than the lilting opener, “Ambre.” In “Tristana,” Frahm enhances his piano playing with celeste and reed organ which, in this context, sound closer to a glockenspiel and melodica respectively. Though only three instruments are present, they generate a richly contrasting sound field: the celeste's bright ping and the piano's legato patterns differ markedly in character from the lonely call of the reed organ in its higher pitches and the mystery it exudes in its lower tones. The smoothly flowing piano playing that distinguishes “Nue” and the other pieces suggests that the Schubert connection—the Wintermusik title can't help but call to mind Schubert's Die Winterreise—might be more than mere coincidence.

July 2009