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Toronto pianist/composer Chris Donnelly gained much critical acclaim for his first album, Solo (Alma Records, 2008), which mixed his own originals with fresh takes on some classic tunes. His follow-up, the riskier and more ambitious Metamorphosis, is an outstanding recording from an outstanding artist.
Metamorphosis is inspired by visual artist M. C. Escher's 1939 woodcut, Metamorphosis II, which appears on the cover. The music has, in turn, inspired a poem from Toronto poet Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, with Donnelly using each line of Di Cicco's work as the title of one of the album's ten pieces, lending even the track listing a beauty of its own.
Although the work is presented as ten separate tracksten movementsMetamorphosis is a continuous 50-minute piece, recorded in a single take. The movements flow seamlessly from one into the next, their moods shifting and changing subtly, reflecting the gradual changes in Escher's visual imagery.
Like the artwork that inspired it, the beauty of Metamorphosis is both celebratory and sorrowful. It encompasses the lightly romantic melody of "In The Time-Scape Of Sound" and "You Enter The Fountain," the reflective grace of "Cresting, Falling Away," the percussive drive of "You Hear The Voice" and the more somber "The Bough Of Time." Across it all, Donnelly's energy and physicality comes over stronglythere's no doubting his own emotional connection with his compositions.
Just as Escher's woodcut ends by returning to its opening visual image, the music ends where it began, with the final section of "You Are The Dance" returning to the stark, repetitive, five-note theme of the opening "You Are The Dancer."
Metamorphosis is sonically excellent, intelligent, imaginative and affecting. Donnelly's composition is ambitious in scope, yet succeeds admirably. His interpretation is always fascinating; at times it's absolutely breathtaking.
Track Listing: You Are The Dancer; In The Time-Scape Of Sound; You Enter The Fountain; Cresting, Falling Away; In The Chimera Of Notes; You Hear The Voice; In A Blossom Of Water; Saying You Are The Azure; The Bough Of Time; You Are The Dance.