“Verses is a new composition by me which uses the famous right hand motif from Piano Sonata No. 3 (Largo) and is followed by that part of that Sonata in its original version played on the piano by Alice. So you hear the motif first recomposed arranged for a string quartet and then just a couple of minutes you will hear it in it’s original state played on the piano.” – Arnalds from TLoBF Premiere
Personally, “favorite” artists come and go. My response to that sort of question would depend on the week, the time of day, my mood, etc. There are very few artists who I can consistently say are my favorite, and Ólafur Arnalds is one of them. Ólafur Arnalds is an Icelandic neo-classical composer who has done scores for film (such as the Broadchurch OST), short piano albums, electronic collaborations under the alias Kiasmos, and solo albums which blend contemporary classical music with vocals and ambient/electronic aspects. I’ve listened to For Now I Am Winter in a single sitting tens of times, Eulogy For Evolution is what inspired me to pick up piano, and I often turn to his Living Room Songs when “trees” are involved.
A few months ago Ólafur announced The Chopin Project. A big fan of Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, I was extremely excited to hear this news. Since then, I’ve been waiting for every preview of the track, and when it came out on March 16th I dedicated the remainder of the day to listen to the album.
“Verses”, as you’ve read, is a re-composition of Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 3. After hearing both, you might agree that it is more of a re-imagination. Chopin, arguably the face of the Romantic era, and his contemporaries left a major influence on music, even till today. The way Ólafur handles his take of the piece with verses is marvelous. Abandoning the piano and leaving strings alone, all the while creating a somber ambiance that is uplifted through the right hand motif (once you hear it, you’ll know it) played on violin. Ólafur’s music, the way I see it, always expresses ideas of life, struggle, and hope, and taking the Romantic motifs of Chopin through the decades unto today is something Ólafur did masterfully.
The visual for the track combines birds (which Ólafur often includes in his music videos symbolically), with footage of water filmed upside down, swaying back and forth as gently as the piece itself. In conjunction with the music, the listener becomes enveloped, lost in time and space as Ólafur pays homage to the great contributions of Chopin and the Romantic era.
Regardless of how you, me, or anybody may see it, Ólafur Arnalds and The Chopin Project resulted in something beautiful and calming, and I’d definitely recommend giving it some of your time.
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Image taken from Official Visual video on YouTube.