Review November 20th, 2016

Sound storm à la Balanyà
Catalan pianist gives concert in completely darkened Sendesaal.
By YORK SCHAEFER, Weser-Kurier, November 20th, 2016

Bremen, Germany. During a concert in the Sendesaal almost 10 years ago one could marvel at the Catalan piano improviser Josep-Maria Balanyà producing all sorts of sounds and unusual peculiarities. For example, he lay like an auto mechanic under the piano to knock its underbody - and he worked percussively on the stage floor itself. Whether or not the radically liberated sound-explorer, born in Barcelona in 1949, did similar experiments in his latest performance in the Sendesaal, 18th November, it will remain his secret forever.
The concert took place in the completely darkened room, you could not see your hand in front of your eyes. For almost any other musician in this concert series, the visual sense deprivation and forced focus on purely listening would have been more appropriate than for Josep-Maria Balanyà. A "naked improvisation" and "pure listening experience", as the Catalan describes his concert in the dark, where the music is ‘composed’ and follows a rough structure live. He would have liked to perform naked, he lets the audience know before the lights go out, but is afraid of catching cold.
An atmosphere of freezing cold and heart-stopping explosions characterizes the concert’s beginning. "The Shining #1" is the title of the first piece. Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 psycho-thriller of the same title, tells of the horror in a completely snow-bound Colorado mountain hotel. Josep-Maria Balanyà alternates between tonal compression and openness, between the harsh sound of noise and lonely sounding notes which fade away.
A mostly dissonant and agitated music, sometimes menacingly gloomy, to which Josep-Maria Balanyà at times adds trance-like singing, giving it a magical touch. The experimental parts of abrasive and biting sounds, which seemed to come from the inside of the piano, were also quite effective. These somewhat quieter passages, for this listener, could have been more extended… Nevertheless, a pure listening experience of a special kind.