12 Songs, 37 Minutes


Ratings and Reviews

Review from Journeyscapes Radio


Chicago-based pianist and composer, Lena Natalia, released one of my favorite piano albums earlier in 2016, titled Rendezvous in Paris. She is back with a follow-up, titled Second Youth, an album comprised of twelve solo piano compositions that, as with her previous two releases, showcases her unique brand of mostly minimal, neoclassical-style craftsmanship. Also, like her prior efforts, Second Youth seems to tell a story throughout its course, with this newest installment alluding to the revisiting of childhood memories, perhaps with a longing to relive that era of one’s life again.

“Spinning Tops” is a two-minute opener which reminds me of a ballet performance introduction, with its graceful and flowing classical flair. In fact, one of the key defining characteristics of Lena’s compositions is their often spinning and twirling-like interlocking patterns, of which are in constant melodious movement. Likewise, her gorgeous melodies often become immediately memorable upon just the first listen or two, boasting a substantively intricate yet inherently simplistic elegance that is largely free of elaborate excesses. “Moving On” follows next, and although representative of some of the brighter, sunnier compositions herein, it still retains an inherent sense of nostalgic reflection that permeates the rest of the album. Continuing with “Prayer for Wisdom”, this solemnly exquisite piece is easily among my favorites, as it conveys a sense of reverence and solitude in a minimally classical fashion. Ensuing next is the slightly more dramatic “Rainstorm”, another favorite which is characterized by rippling higher register notes and starker lower register notes that move along in a galloping manner. The aptly-titled seventh track, “Café Con Leche”, is among the album’s more contemporary sounding pieces, conveying the comforting warmth and subtle sweetness of the beverage it’s named after. Another particular highlight is the tenth track, “Waiting at the Gate”, which possesses a somewhat melancholic feel, as it’s gently carried along by a steadily cascading and wistful melody. Tenderly concluding the album is “Transitions”, a subtly poignant piece which conveys the notion of ‘moving on’, perhaps from one phase of a person’s life to another.

With Lena having resided in Paris for several years – hence the inspiration for her previous two albums, Rendezvous in Paris and Sundays in Paris – it perhaps comes as little surprise that a perfectly understated romantic mystique finds its presence on much of this album as well. I was often reminded of quaint cafes and venues along cobblestone streets, as well as picturesque scenes of solitude both in the cities and countryside. Lena’s music is at once deeply emotive and tenderhearted yet never bombastic or saccharine, thereby perfectly allowing its listener to either dive into the story and engage in the emotions expressed herein, or simply relegate it to aesthetic background listening. A simply brilliant pianist-composer, Lena’s memorably beautiful melodies are in themselves her strongest asset, only further supported by her idiosyncratic compositional techniques. Every bit as lovely as its predecessor, Second Youth is another masterwork from one of my favorite rising stars in the field!

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