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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
Other reviews from The Sounding Board by R J Lannan:
  Piano 3 by Andrew Shapiro, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 2/16/2017
  Longitudes & Latitudes by Lawrence Blatt, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 1/27/2017
  Orphée by Jóhann Jóhannsson, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/14/2016
<<-later reviews | earlier reviews->>   <<- all reviews ->>
The Heart of Frida
By Starr Parodi
Label: Sonic Doppler Records
Released 8/12/2016
The Heart of Frida tracks
1. The Heart of Frida
2. When Doves Cry
3. The Elephant and the Dove
4. Rancho Hamilton
5. Hardly Touching
6. Overture of Color
7. Nights in White Satin
8. Don't Be Discouraged
9. Sun & Life
10. The Lightness of Frida
11. Hope
The Many Shades of Emotion
I listened to the latest release of pianist Starr Parodi, a collection called The Heart of Frida, and my mind kept drifting back to a very well-known classical suite, namely Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Like Mussorgsky, whose music was inspired by renowned painter Viktor Hartmann, Parodi draws from the works of one of Mexico's more prominent artists, Frida Kahlo. The painter's life is full of pain and sorrow, from child to adult she lived with physical pain and in later years, suffered from drug addiction and depression. Her experiences colored her art in a most unique fashion, adding imaginative vibrancy, but still featuring the emotional environment that affected her native artworks. Starr Parodi, using her solo piano, captures not only the colors of Kahlo's primitive folk art, but the anguish that affected most of her works. And like Kahlo, some of Parodi's musical murmurations are obvious, while others are quite subtle.

The first track is the title tune The Heart of Frida, featuring a slow, steady Spanish theme that is as sensitive as it is elegant. Starr's composition is sadly dark in a way that depicts Kahlo' life as one of suffering on many levels, but it also shows the fear that she had for the world and how she positioned that fear in her paintings. This is a beautiful beginning.

Parodi adds two contemporary covers to the mix. Appropriately, she performs Prince's When Doves Cry with aplomb and a great deal of emotional introspection. The music then and now depicts the difficulties of relationships. Kahlo's life was in constant upheaval. Her later works were often self-portraits, many of them displaying tumultuous and confusing elements. She must have felt so alone.

The Elephant and the Dove is a musical portrait of the physical differences between Frida and her husband, artist Diego Rivera. Frida was a diminutive woman and Rivera a very large man. The differences translate to their own works as well. We have Rivera, the master of large wall murals depicting Mexican life. Kahlo's were mostly small, personal observation, many of them about herself. Parodi's lyrical work provides what could be called a sentimental view of the often stormy relationship.

Overture of Color is my favorite track on the album. This a breathtaking piece that is played with energy and verve. Like Kahlo's paintings, Parodi's tune is rich in detail, strong in theme and bold in execution. I would like to mention that the audio quality of the recording is exceptional and my hat goes off to Jeff Fair and Tim Young who recorded and mixed and mastered the album, respectively.

The other cover that Starr includes is the Neo-symphonic favorite, Nights in White Satin. This particular song is a favorite of pianists as it has the ability to climb emotionally over the top at times and I can say that Parodi brilliantly drove it there. Her piano serves as her orchestra and she pulls it off with passionate proficiency.

The Lightness of Frida has some obvious classical elements tinged by Spanish sensibilities, but it sounds somewhat like a nocturne with a bit more energy than expected. There is a sense of melancholy throughout, but Starr still manages to portray the inner strength of the artist in Kahlo. This also another favorite on The Heart of Frida.

The last and longest cut is simply called Hope. It is a serious piece fraught with arpeggios that get the attention of the listener as if a story is unfolding right before our ears. Even though there is a bit of optimism in the music, there is a sadness that cloaks the composition like a melodious shawl. The resonance of this music is strong and positive, but the comfort of tears would not be unwelcome.

Though pain and suffering is part of the focus of the opus, Starr Parodi, through her emotionally-rich compositions, imbues the works with grace and a delicate sense of joie de vivre. The joy perhaps of this singular figure is the reward of her art. For us, it is Parodi's music. Sadly, Kahlo's final words were, "I hope the exit is joyful - and I hope never to return."
Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 11/2/2016
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