Preludes [TrackList follows] – John Roney, solo piano (live at the historic chapel Bon Pasteur) – Effendi

by | May 25, 2015 | Classical CD Reviews

Preludes [TrackList follows] – John Roney, solo piano (live at the historic chapel Bon Pasteur) – Effendi Records FND 138 [Distr. by Naxos] (1/13/15) *****:

These are the most amazing non-jazz improvisations I have heard in some time! Roney doesn’t just add some ornaments or just jazz up these familiar themes, but totally reconstructs them into ingenious and creative new works. The only that gets into a real jazz mode is the last track on the CD, his re-arrangement of Bach’s Prelude in d BWV 851 from the WTC Book 1.

The album opens with another Bach Prelude re-imagining. It is the one in c minor, BWV 847, also from the WTC Book 1. Then he does all three of the Gershwin Preludes for Piano, with the second Andante one running over six minutes – much longer than the original. I once performed these in recital so was especially interested in what Roney did with all three of them. Which is totally amazing. This is Gershwin brought into the 21st century, but not losing listeners due to overly atonal material. It’s difficult to analyze them; one must just hear them.

Next are two Debussy Preludes – a natural step after the Gershwin. Yes, you can hear the main Debussian themes of “Bruyeres” and “The Girl with the Golden Hair,” but these again are amazing re-creations of the highly original Debussy originals.  Two Chopin Preludes improvisions, lead the way to two Scriabin Preludes.  A natural progression due to the early Scriabin piano works having been heavily influenced by and strove to imitate Chopin. I’m sure I’ll be returning to tracks 10 and 11 on the CD frequently for Roney’s intense and unique recreations of the two Scriabin Preludes: Op. 16 No. 3 and Op. 17, No. 6, since he’s my favorite composer.

Roney also creates a fascinating interpretation of Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss,” which points up that it’s really a Prelude, just like all the others here. And played like a classical work too. I think the Duke would have been totally fascinated with what Roney does with his glorious tune here.

Roney excells in working in jazz, classical, pop music, opera and contemporary music. He hails from Montreal and had led his own projects since 1996, with four albums out to date. He has also appeared in over 30 commercial recordings in Canada. In 2011 he won a Prix Galaxie de Composition for his performance in that year’s Montreal Jazz Festival.

I should also point out that Roney plays a Fasioli piano, the very best in the world at the moment, and the recording is top-flight for standard CD quality. Note that this recording comes from Canada; I don’t think it would have been possible in the U.S.


01. Bach – Prelude in C minor BWV 847- WTC book 1, No. 2
02. Gershwin – Prelude 1 – Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
03. Gershwin – Prelude 2 – Andante con moto e poco rubato
04. Gershwin – Prelude 3 – Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
05. Debussy – Prelude, book 2, No. 5 ‘Bruyeres’
06. Debussy – Prelude, book 1, No. 8 ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’
07. Duke Ellington – Prelude to a Kiss
08. Chopin – Prelude – Op. 28 No. 2 – Lento
09. Chopin – Prelude – Op. 28 No. 4 – Largo
10. Scriabin – Prelude Op. 16 No. 3 – Andante Cantabile
11. Scriabin – Prelude Op. 17 No. 6 – Andante Doloroso
12. Bach – Prelude in D minor BWV 851- WTC book 1, No. 6

—John Sunier