STEFANO BOLLANI - PIANO VARIATIONS on Jesus Christ Superstar
Stefano Bollani started playing the piano at the age of six. An enfant prodige (later graduating from the Music Conservatory of Florence), he devoured music whenever he could, constantly searching for stimulations, everywhere, in all the music of the past, and even more so by exploring the present. He was 14 when he first saw the movie “Jesus Christ Superstar”. And it was a totally overwhelming experience! Young Bollani instantly fell in love with the music, the story and the atmosphere of the scenes. He bought the record straightaway and listened to the recording over and over again. He soon learned every word of the lyrics, but he hardly dared perform the music. Only now - after over thirty years of multi-faceted music-making, innumerous recordings, significant encounters and concerts all over the world - has Bollani decided to record his own version of Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s masterpiece of genius. And only now has he realized that his own album would actually come out exactly 50 years after the release of the original concept album “Jesus Christ Superstar”!
Why has Bollani picked up “Jesus Christ Superstar” only now? - Because, Bollani confesses, he simply adores, treasures and respects the original too much: the music and the lyrics, the arrangements and the singers. And yet, he so much wanted to do it. So the only way out for him was to conceive a version of his very own that would be very different from the original. And that is precisely what Bollani has done. By presenting an entirely instrumental version for piano only. “I have chosen the piano solo formula because the love affair here is actually between the rock opera and myself, and - Bollani explains with a grin - I know a love affair is better when it stays intimate.” But do not expect a straight transcription for piano solo! No! Bollani, most grateful for the exceptional permission granted to him to re-interpret the cult opera “Jesus Christ Superstar”, has freely (but respectfully) approached and improvised on the original tunes and songs by following his own playful wit and musical spirit, informed by many of the musical traditions, genres, styles and encounters that have influenced him, and shaped and consolidated what is considered his very own idiom.
For his “Piano Variations on Jesus Christ Superstar” Bollani has decided to have the piano tuned at 432 Hz, which nowadays is rather unusual. He has done so neither for mystical-philosophical nor for medical-scientific or historical-political but for the following reasons. Firstly, he simply feels at ease the most when playing at 432 Hz. Thus a simple matter of personal taste: whenever he can, he will play on a piano tuned at 432 Hz, and he wished he could always play at 432 Hz when performing. Secondly, for his re-interpretation of “Jesus Christ Superstar” Bollani wanted to a have a particularly warm, mellow, profound, dense and at the same time clear piano sound (“of the past”) that could best vehicle the utterly profound and archaic emotions and extreme unanswered questions raised by the original work. The piano tuned at 432 Hz, Bollani reveals, has allowed him to express the warmth and profundity of Lloyd Webber & Rice’s wonderfully strong and round film characters.
As on his recording, consisting of a large selection of the tunes of the original concept album, Bollani is going to perform his “Piano Variations on Jesus Christ Superstar” in concert by following the story plot. That is most unusual for Bollani, indeed: never does he hit the stage with a pre-conceived set list and hardly ever does he record his albums with a pre-fixed sequence of compositions in mind. Different from other projects of his, consisting of single, seemingly independent songs, here Bollani insists on respecting the narrative structure of what he considers to be “the most fascinating story ever told” (about love & hate, devotion & treason, life & death, etc.). He wants his piano to tell and sing the story. With the global narrative structure in mind, the dramaturgy of the album was set from the very beginning of his recording session. However, when approaching the single tunes of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, Stefano Bollani follows his own musical spirit and genius by freely improvising on and fantastically elaborating the original material in the moment - with deep respect and with beautiful fantasy. And - as usual - with joy and with love.
Stefano Bollani - “Piano Variations on Jesus Christ Superstar” (Alobar 1007) will be internationally released (on CD, 2-LP and digitally) on 3rd April 2020.