Ola Gjeilo (piano)
Decca 485 2954 40:28 mins
Over the past five years there has been an explosion of easy-listening solo piano recordings. Rippling broken chords, repetitive melodies, simple structures – these are to 21st-century peace-seekers what whale music was to the 1990s. While some pianist-composers such as Ludovico Einaudi can attract enormous in-person audiences, most of this music thrives online, where artists such as Ola Gjeilo notch up millions of streams. The Norwegian pianist-composer’s latest album, Dawn – the follow-up to 2020’s Night – exemplifies the pop-classical piano aesthetic (Stephan Moccio; Yiruma, Olivia Belli et al) with gently pulsing shapes and an emphasis on the middle, most resonant, part of the keyboard. Like Belli and Einaudi’s albums, many of the pieces have titles alluding to the natural world (Sun Prelude, First Light, Manhattan Sunrise). Gjeilo studied at Juilliard and the Royal College of Music and his technical abilities elevate the quality of the performance above some of his contemporaries. However, there’s not much within the music itself that’s distinctive: there’s some nice voice-leading in Shine, but Blue is a rather aimless meander; pieces like Origin and Homebound seem ripe for further development.