Michael Wollny – Mondenkind
(ACT 9765-2. CD review by Mike Collins)
The far side of the moon is a traditional source of mystery. When it was visible to Apollo 11 as it orbited our rocky satellite, communications were not possible between earth and the solitary astronaut keeping the ship steady as Armstrong and Aldrin gathered dust below. The loss of contact with home was 46 minutes and 38 seconds on each orbit, and that is the precise length of Mondenkind (Moonchild), Michael Wollny’s first solo piano album.
Wollny makes a link between those solo orbits with periods of isolation from earth, and the experience of recording this series of 15 short pieces during the isolation and solitude of the lockdown in early 2020. It was a fertile solitude judging by the result; by turns haunting and compelling, there’s a reflective, searching and exploratory sense to this set, punctuated by some tumultuous episodes. With over a dozen recordings under his belt with a variety of collaborators, Wollny’s capacity for pyrotechnics and dazzling range is well established. On Mondenkind, there’s a sense of distilled discipline as if we can feel Wollny listening to himself and the piano, before choosing the next note, or darting off along a divergent path.
There’s a sprinkling of pieces from eclectic sources – Tori Amos, Rudolf Hindemith (younger brother of the more famous Paul), Tiber Timbre, Alban Berg, Sufjan Stevens – scattered amongst Wollny pieces that vary from short episodes of texture and atmosphere like lunar landscape, all glassy trills and wandering lines, through evocative abstractions making use of percussive bursts and crystalline clusters like things behind walls and enter three witches, via glowing gems like the rain never stops on venus, where an austere, exuberant lyricism emerges from racing, shard-like arpeggios. Then Hindemith’s sonatine nr. 7/2 develops a propulsive groove as Wollny digs in. After those three witches leave, Berg’s schliesse mir die augen beide injects bittersweet melancholy and a sombre tone, which is quickly chased away by the rain on venus. Wollny’s reading of Sufjan Stevens’ mercury is an intense end to the set, resonant chords sculpting an elegant arc of melody before a swelling wave of notes reach an ecstatic crescendo.
The sound of the mostly short pieces is as often abstract tone poem and interlocking motifs as overtly melodic. They blend together and make a really striking, personal and absorbing musical statement from Wollny.