Ketil Bjørnstad improvises Nordic vastness

As Ulrich Steinmetzger stated in Thüringer Allgemeine: “With his new double CD entitled Vinding’s Music – Songs from the Alder Thicket, Ketil Bjørnstad offers us a recording that delights the ears and takes stock of his piano career in its autumn years.”

Bjørnstad, who wrote a semi-biographical trilogy centred on the young pianist Aksel Vinding as the main character, belongs to a rare breed of artists who are no less talented as writers than musicians. To mark his sixtieth birthday, ECM published something akin to a “soundtrack” for the novel in April 2012. The double CD does not only contain works by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff and Barber (mentioned in the trilogy and recorded live on the CD), but also improvisations that the Norwegian writer/pianist/composer recorded on a C. Bechstein C 234 grand piano at Pettersens Kolonial Lydstudio (Hønefoss, Norway).

Ketil Bjørnstad’s improvisations forgo virtuosity. The music is mainly quiet and meditative. The melodies suggest Nordic vastness. Bjørnstad extensively uses the Bechstein’s singing trebles and draws impressive notes from the instrument when he plays piano and pianissimo. This might be the reason why Ulrich Steinmetzger describes Bjørnstad as a “piano whisperer”, a musician whose style fascinates even without fortissimo.