On the 8th of December 2023, German pianist Peter Grabinger will release his latest album titled “Piano Works” on Mons Records. Having appeared on more than 30 albums, “Piano Works” is the first solo album Peter has released under his own name and contains works from the classical repertoire along with pieces from composers from the pop and jazz world. Also included are three original compositions from Peter himself. The album contains a kaleidoscope of music reaching across many genres with the album’s central theme and connecting tissue being the performer that is Peter Grabinger.
Peter’s musical journey began early when at the age of 4, he received his first piano lessons from his father. At the age of 13 Peter became the youngest student in Germany to study with Prof. Katja Laugs-Beckenbach and Prof. Richard Laugs at the State University of Music and Performing Arts in Mannheim. He later studied with Prof. Leonard Hokanson in the master class at the State University for Music and Performing Arts in Frankfurt. From 1988 to 2017, Grabinger was the pianist for the Fischer-Chöre (Fischer choirs), a group of choirs well known from German TV from their program “Straße der Lieder”. Also, during his early career Peter gave piano concerts with the Southwest German Chamber Orchestra, the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra and the Kurpfälzisches Kammerorchester. During his career, Peter has amassed a long list of performing credits including Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Harald Schmidt, Ivan Rebroff, Heinz Hoppe, Mort Shuman, Erika Köth, Dagmar Koller, Joy Fleming and most recently as accompanist for Pe Werner, Joana, Jay Alexander, Hartmut Engler and David E. Moore. From 1985 to 2021 he worked for Süddeutscher Rundfunk and Südwestrundfunk as a music editor, supervisor and music producer and is well known as musical director and pianist of the live format SWR1 Pop & Poesie in Concert since 2009.
Opening the album is the first of the three original compositions on the album written by Peter titled “Memories”. Peter explained that the piece reflects on a summer in Italy when he was 20 years old. Peter added “I was madly in love. Her name was Gabriella.” This track infuses elements of pop and soul with some jazz harmony to create a captivating piece that reflects the feeling of that summer in years past. In the following track Grabinger provides an impressionistic reading of the theme from “The Color Purple”, the 1985 American period drama film directed by Steven Spielberg with music from none other than Quincy Jones. With this performance, Grabinger presents a highly emotional and moving rendition of Jones’s composition highlighting the many emotional facets of the human condition, joy, sorrow, hope, drama, and redemption all combined in one composition.
The album continues with the impressionistic as Peter presents the “Forlane” from Maurice Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin”. This suite for solo piano by Maurice Ravel was composed between 1914 and 1917 with each movement dedicated to the memory of a friend of the composer who had died fighting in World War I. The Forlane was dedicated to Gabriel Deluc (a Basque painter from Saint-Jean-de-Luz). While the suite is based on the form of the French Baroque keyboard suite, Ravel’s music is rooted in the French impressionistic style common at the time in the French capital. Peter explained that this particular movement is his favourite piece from “Le Tombeau de Couperin.” He added “It’s a harmonious masterpiece, highly cinematic, you hear dancing goblins and filigree swinging elves.”
The following two pieces are both compositions by Frédéric Chopin. Peter explained that he feels a strong connection with the music of Chopin, “to me, the music of Chopin is like a courtship, a love life with all its ups and downs.” For this album Peter chose two pieces from Chopin, the first, “Minutenwalzer” (Op. 64 No. 1), one of Chopin’s best-known works, that also happens to be the favourite piece of his daughter Lisa and from his Nocturne’s, Op. 27, No 1 Leghetto. Frédéric Chopin wrote 21 nocturnes for solo piano between 1827 and 1846. They are generally considered among the finest short solo works for the instrument and hold an important place in contemporary concert repertoire. With this performance Peter provides a somewhat more introverted interpretation than is often heard, climaxing in the thirds, and ending with harmonic salvation.
As mentioned above, this album contains a Kaleidoscope of music reaching across many genres and the two tracks from jazz composer and pianist Dave Grusin couldn’t be more different to the music preceding it. Peter explains “Dave Grusin is one of my big role models. The melody to ‘It might be you’ has accompanied me for half my life.” Peter’s performance of this piece on the album stays close to Grusin’s original, paying full respect to what Peter sees as “a tonal and compositional masterpiece.” also from Grusin is the “Memphis Stomp” that Peter considers “a pianistic challenge with incredible groove and the need for merciless motor skills.
Further highlighting the diversity of material presented on the album is Peter’s rendition of R Kelly’s massive hit “I believe I can Fly” and the Jazz Standard “Autumn Leaves”. When speaking of the choice for this piece Peter stated,“This song contains all the colours of autumn, all facets: the blowing of the wind, storms, transience, farewell and hope, it’s all combined in this evergreen.” While most listeners will be familiar with the English Lyrics written by Johnny Mercer, it was the original French version (Les Feuilles mortes) with lyrics written by Jacques Prévert that inspired Peter. “I’m particularly touched by the final sentence: Et la mer efface sur le sable les pas des amants désunis …” (And the sea erases on the sand the footsteps of disunited lovers).
The final two original compositions by Grabinger to appear on the album are “November” that evokes Peter’s impressions of the month, relaxed and chilled and the highly personal “Edi (for Dad)”, that in Pete’s words is “a tribute to my late, wonderful father, a brilliant musician and entertainer. The motif is derived from the vowels of his name Eduard Grabinger: the tones e,d,a,g. The memory of making music together and, especially for him, quotes from his favourite piece, the traditional ‘Weit ist der Weg’. My composition unites his happy life until his death.”
With “Piano Works”, Peter Grabinger combines his many years of experience and artistic vision to deliver an album that shows his unique ability to take music from any genre and blend this seamlessly into a highly engaging album that will appeal to a wide range of music lovers. “Piano Works” will be available on CD and all streaming platforms via Mons Records on the 8th of December 2023.