When the hair on your arm is in a state of permanent erection and your eyes become instantly wet, you know you’re experiencing something extraordinary. In this case, it was the ménage à trois of some of the greatest piano artists of our time at the prestigious Rheingau Musik Festival: Chilly Gonzales, the fierce musical polymath, Igor Levit, the courageous classical interpreter, and the epitome of lyrical, Malakoff Kowalski. Continue reading
“Enya: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures” – review and reflection
It’s been almost 9 months now, since the virus has turned the world upside down. Time, in which Chilly Gonzales birthed a song with Gary Barlow called “Oh What a Day” (alongside Barry Manilow on the same album), recorded a Christmas album and wrote a book about Enya. Some people would call every single element of each “bad taste” initially. Why? Because what we wear, like and listen to is a form of social demarcation. Take the typical hipster as an example: “somebody trying too hard to be different by rejecting anything that is deemed popular. [...] hipsters aren’t actually different at all, they’re just people that are snobbier and more annoying about their taste in ‘alternative’ things, which are all popular now thanks to the other hipsters.” (Urban Dictionary) The hipster is the extreme representation of a trap we fall prey to in different forms when we transition from innocent, uninfluenced children to beings who have learned about effect, reaction and manipulation. In an attempt to be cool, more distinct and outclass others, we deny things we actually love, and intellectually adopt what we think we should like. We foster those well-groomed pets in the rational chamber of our brains and cage the wild spirits that once lived in our souls and nurtured our emotions in the forbidden “guilt box”. The book is a plea to rerelease our authentic, pre-adolescent, guilt-free selves – or rather that’s the afflatus I draw from it. Continue reading
Tomorrow is the day we have all been waiting for: Solo Piano III will finally be here. Fortunately, we were at the premiere in Geneva. Unfortunately, Gonzo didn’t play the full album – however: Fortunately, the few pieces made my soul rejoice. Unfortunately, the Ostinato made me aware I’ll never ever reach heavenly Aretha’s voice. Fortunately, Gonzo gone Beast for a minute, played the drums like the most freakin’ Muppet. Unfortunately, my amateur rhymes are just a rapper’s spit turned into foam. Fortunately, this idea here killed the white paper syndrome. Unfortunately, “Fortunately, Unfortunately” was the first and only “Soft Power” song he played live in ages. Fortunately, it’s a (re-)start – those pieces belong to the stages.
I know this sounds much better in its original form, but it expresses what the whole concert made obvious: Gonzo embraces his whole oeuvre like never before. The upcoming album is not only a sign of the times, but a statement from a musical humanist.
We are in Hollywood. At one of the probably most legendary hotels of the world. The Chateau Marmont. People famous and ordinary have come here for decades to escape, take drugs, love, hide, fuck, destruct or even kill themselves. A vanishing beauty, whose charm has survived, but whose facade fades. Zoom into Room 29, where Chilly Gonzales makes the piano, which has been there for decades, tell the tales of times long passed, and where Jarvis Cocker translates tunes into deeply resonating words – into a reflection on perception. We are at the stage and album premiere of contemporary song cycle Room 29 at Hamburg’s Kampnagel.
I’ve been heavily addicted to Chilly Gonzales’ music for almost ten years now. It’s my mood booster, pain killer, soul balm and sometimes it just triggers the sweet state of melancholia. If I lived in the US, they would have probably tried to make me go to rehab. I’m glad I’ve stuck to this drug, because its quality has never been better, its taste has never been more well-rounded and the effect has never been more immediate, long-lasting and impactful than today. And I have proof for this assertion: If you manage not only to sell out a concert hall like beautifully purist KKL in Lucerne, but also to make people jump off their seats and honor your performance with standing ovations in the middle of a show, you have finally made it. Even more, if that happens in Switzerland – Zwingliland! Continue reading
As the old story goes, was the word in the beginning. Then God created day and night, and divided the light from the darkness – or the light from the shadow. It is also the word, “logos”, that disturbs Faust in the famous study scene and it is a shadow, that has turned into a man, turning the proverb “a man, a word” into “a man, a shadow”. The Bible, Faust, Narcissus, Freud and many more influences emulsify in Hans Christian Andersen’s dark fairy tale “The Shadow” that Chilly Gonzales and his long-time friend and cohort Adam Traynor have brought on stage as an amalgamation of a live silent movie and a paper cut come alive. After the premiere at Hamburg’s Kampnagel, it is part of Schauspiel Köln’s repertoire until October. Continue reading
Chilly Gonzales fans are passionate people. They either run a website dedicated to his works, apply for a lesson by the Maestro himself with incredibly witty and funny videos, or they start playing the piano – just because they love his pieces so much. Others queue for hours to enter Kulturkaufhaus Dussmann in Berlin and witness his Masterclass. In the end, only 200 make it inside. While waiting, one of them stated something obvious, yet easy to be forgotten: “He sells out Europe’s concert halls – it is special to be part of something that intimate tonight.” Continue reading
Europeans hardly see themselves as citizens of one nation. They consider themselves inhabitants of several independent countries pooled by an alliance of convenience, or worse: necessary evil. Even more in “our” times, when the EU is in danger, fighting monetary threats. On one hand, people benefit from open borders, and on the other, they seem to be more aware of the differences than of what unites us and the rich cultural heritage. Maybe it’s the lack of a common language; a European Esperanto. Yet, it’s the words of a Canadian that strikes a chord, and might bring some remedy for the sore EU citizen – especially the German soul. In an interview with renowned radio station Deutsche Welle he states: “I firmly believe that Europe is one land and Germany an important province of this land.” Continue reading
When I witnessed Cameron Carpenter mastering his International Touring Organ and making this incredible machine come alive in Zurich last Sunday night, I instantly had Chilly Gonzales’ words in mind, when he called The BBC Symphony Orchestra he played with in London 2012 “the world’s most expensive synthesizer”. It was apparently another fulfilled longing to have one of those “synthesizers” all to himself. Carpenter’s digital organ might be even more expensive, the inner urge to create such an instrument, find sponsors and then actually use it, is the same. The obvious connection between the two musicians – apart from their dedication to key instruments – as Chilly Gonzales would put it: They are men of their (and our) time. They have a vision – the vision to take music to the next level. To keep the roots, but cut the weed. To not see music as something written in stone, but something versatile, adaptable and re-inventable as well as re-interpretative.So in an ideal world, these two should work together and as we sometimes like to daydream at SoloGonzales, we already have an idea how: with harpsichordist Christopher Lewis on board in a concert dedicated to “The Evolution of the Keys”. Continue reading
After being nominated in 2008 with Feist for “The Reminder”, Chilly Gonzales’ name finally echoed through the holy halls of the Staples Center in Los Angeles last night, when he received a Grammy for his contribution to Daft Punk’s RAM. Continue reading