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Christiane Klonz, Pop Star

img  Tobias

In the world of classical music “versatility” is not exactly a term with positive connotations. Including a contemporary piece on your album or premiering a specially commissioned work in one of your concerts has become almost obligatory. But everything beyond this dutiful acknowledgement of the 21st century is considered dangerous – especially if it involves the ultimate four-letter word of the scene: “Pop”. This is why it is a pretty courageous step for a classical pianist like Christiane Klonz to record “Ballads”, which is

a) a single, the ultimate medium of pop and
b) a collection of instrumental songs in the vein of Elton John.

You also have to consider that this is happening just when her career is about to lift off with an engagement at Carnegie Hall next year. As I have been preparing a review of Klonz' latest CD with pieces by Mozart, Beethoven and Liszt, I decided to give “Ballads” a couple of spins again.

Admittedly, these are not complex compositions and even compared to the repertoire of artists like Billy Joel, they must probably be categorised as conservative. How they fit into Christiane's live repertoire is also a closed book for me – even though I have heard rapturous accounts. What makes “Ballads” so interesting for me is their unashamed emotionality at the brink of kitch.

In her classical interpretations, after all, Klonz is a precise, meticulous and overwhelmingly sharp performer who evokes feelings in the listener by holding back herself and lends a transcendental quality to her renditions. Here, she dives into these pieces as if there were no tomorrow, hammering her chords out on pieces with titles like “Peace and Happiness in Life”. I'm on my third round of listening and I'm still amazed at this paradox. Oh, and it goes without saying that it's probably more perfectly suited as a soundtrack to Christmas than her seasonal “Christmas Piano” CD.

By Tobias Fischer

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