The Piano is one of the world’s most beautiful instruments, provided it is played by a virtuoso. It is fair to say that Benny Andersson fits that description as his musical prowess is legendary, well beyond the limitations of Abba. This is also the first time that I think I have been so drawn to a solo piano performance. Sometimes they can be shrill and fail to portray that intended emotion of the composer and the musician. Where Andersson’s Piano differs, however, is that the songs played are composed either solely by Andersson or in conjunction with other exceptional composers. Subsequently, what you get here is a life’s work, reworked for the piano, and it is nothing short of spectacular.
For the purposes of this review, I will be listening to both the TIDAL Masters (MQA) edition of Piano as well as the Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) release. Both are exceptional with the TIDAL Master’s edition bringing Andersson and his piano into the room in a more realistic, and less concealed, manner than the Apple Music counterpart. Ideally, as a fan of Andersson’s work, I’d like to have a copy on vinyl but, I feel compelled to write this review sooner, rather than later, as I can’t seem to stop playing the album. Yes, Piano is addictive and the vinyl release is on my wish list. Some may find, as I do, that this album is most captivating when sitting and listening intently, as the performance will bring you to tears. Others, however, may find that applying it as background music to a romantic dinner may be the ideal situation and while a dinner with the family, kids included, is far from ideal, I can attest to the relaxing nature of the album in the background as one shares their time, a good meal, and conversation with significant others. As good as that experience is, however, this is one album that really demands the attention of the listener for you will inevitably have a much more fulfilled experience should you take the time to appreciate the music in the manner in which Andersson intended you to.
I Let The Music Speak is beautiful. While I love the original from Abba’s The Visitors, this rendition is incredible in that it is familiar yet completely unique. It amazes me just how diverse a single composition can be.
You And I takes you on a magical ride whereby if you let it, the music will elevate your soul and take you to that very special place within your consciousness that only you know about. Music like this is the epitome of subjectivity and is incredibly relaxing. The playing and tuning of the piano on You And I simply blows my mind and is without a doubt one of the best songs on the album.
Aldrig is a lovely song, but I feel it is tracked badly as it is musically different to You And I and doesn’t really fit in with Thank You For The Music. That said, having listened to the album numerous times, I’m unsure of where it would have been better placed. It reminds me of my love/hate relationship with soundtracks as depending on how they are presented, they can either be magnificent or an incongruent selection of songs.
Thank You For The Music is legendary, but this track in particular sounds as though it could have been played in any piano bar around the world. It isn’t the performance, but the initial composition. Plus, subjectively, I’ve never been a major fan of the Abba song as I find it is a little campy; a shame really considering that I adore The Album.
Stockholm By Night is a beautiful song.
Chess is a modern-day masterpiece. Astonishing! How can music be this good?
The Day Before You Came was an interesting choice from Abba’s catalogue and is perfectly suited to the solo nature of Andersson and his piano, but it likely wouldn’t have been a song I would have selected for this album. The performance is flawless, and the recording is captured immaculately, as it is on the entire album. The soundstage on this particular song is very special and has to be heard to be believed as the piano fills the room and captivates you from the very first note to the last.
Someone Else’s Story is another beautiful selection from Chess. This album just keeps getting better and better.
Midnattsdans is a lovely interpretation from BAO!, the second album from the Benny Anderssons Orkester.
Målarskolan is brilliant with its slightly faster tempo when compared to the other songs on the album.
I Wonder (Departure) is magnificent, both the original Abba recording and this interpretation. Although, I’d go as far as saying this rendition greatly improves on the masterpiece that was already present on The Album.
Embassy Lament is, for lack of a better term, a B-Side. It’s enjoyable but isn’t to the same standard as the rest of the songs on Piano.
Anthem is lovely!
My Love, My Life is one of my all-time favourite Abba songs, from my all-time favourite Abba album Arrival. This rendition only enhances my feelings about this song. Absolutely spectacular!
Mountain Duet is quite an interesting composition. It sounds fully developed, yet it also feels incomplete. I know that makes no sense, but there are multiple ways one could appreciate this song and despite having heard it many times, I’m not really sure how, or if, I connect with Mountain Duet.
Flickornas Rum is a great tune that I thoroughly enjoy.
Efter Regnet has me closing my eyes as I picture Andersson playing a private performance for me, and only me. The recording is that transparent that you too will experience that feeling.
Tröstevisa is an absolutely beautiful song.
En Skrift I Snön is, as Tröstevisa is, a beautiful song.
Happy New Year was a lovely song when released by Abba on Super Trouper, but I much prefer this rendition to the original.
I Gott Bevar is the perfect song to close the album on. It’s absolutely magical and encourages me to listen to the entire album again and stay within Andersson’s extensive body of work.
Overall, Piano is one of the greatest pieces of music Andersson has ever released and deserves a place in everyone’s collection.