For pianist/ composer Anastasia, the quote: “Where words fail, music speaks,” by Hans Christian Anderson is personal and deeply meaningful. As she explains: “Music is my passion, my release, and my form of self-expression. It is a way to tell a story.” Born in Bavaria, Germany to parents of Greek descent, and later moving to the US, Anastasia has studied classical piano and honed her skills to be able to give musical voice to her creative impulse and inspiration, which she does elegantly on her album Reminiscent.
In my interview with Anastasia, she shared a bit about her background in music: “I grew up taking classical piano lessons, which gave me the theoretical background and a foundation for playing the piano. As a teenager, I was performing classical piano pieces at competitions. But for fun, I would also play contemporary piano pieces. There was one song in particular that I was blown away by, and which continues to be my favorite song when I play the piano. Yann Tiersen’s La Valse d’Amelie (the solo piano version). It is simple, yet stunningly beautiful. After playing this song, I wanted to create music of my own that was this touching, and I realized that solo piano music can have the power to do that. My first ‘composition’ was at the age of 9. But after playing La Valse d’Amelie, at the age of 12, I was looking to compose something greater – something powerful, poignant and moving. I think “Reminiscing” (the album’s opening track) comes closest to fulfilling the vision that I had in mind back then.”
She goes on to say: “Most of the tracks in my new album have been inspired by some event in my life. Composing piano music, for me more than anything, is a release. I am most inspired to compose when I am going through overwhelming emotional events, it’s almost like the music just naturally flows at those times. As a result, I would describe my music as emotional. However, just because my compositions in the past have mainly been inspired by life events and emotions does not mean that it’s the only time I am capable of composing. I actually love composing music for other people.” Anastasia shared that she takes great joy in writing music for weddings, anniversaries, and special occasions, or for people to give as a gift to loved ones.
The opening track, “Reminiscing,” begins the album on a wistfully romantic note, and conveys the feeling of one lost in thoughts of fond memories. It is quite beautiful and provides the first glimpse of Anastasia’s graceful style on the piano. When I first got the album, I was surprised to see 18 tracks, which could make for a very long recording. However, after closer inspection, I found that many are only three minutes long, with some being in the two-minute range. Its an interesting arrangement and is similar, in a way, to a book of short stories or vignettes. However, for the purpose of this feature article, I won’t go into detail on all of them.
Anastasia’s classical roots are strong on the next track, “Unthinkable.” She cites Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart as her biggest influences as she was learning. I was impressed by her sense of dynamics, and the way she slowly built the song to a crescendo and then dropped down into a more delicate space. The emotional content of her music that Anastasia described above runs through all her compositions, but I was particularly aware of it on a piece called “Resilient,” which blended both melancholy and hopefulness in its introspective melody. I was intrigued by a track called “Dionysius,” who was the Greek god of fertility and wine, later considered a patron of the arts. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anastasia’s Greek roots had an influence on this composition. As she shared: “My parents left Greece a few years before I was born but they brought with them the Greek ballads and folk songs they grew up to, and never quite stopped listening to them. I’ve never quite stopped either. Greeks are very passionate people, and that very much shows in their music and their voice.” The song has an interesting flow, starting out very gently and evolving into a much more dynamic section, perhaps expressing the dual nature of Dionysius who, according to myth, could manifest either joy or aggressiveness.
And speaking of passion, a tender ballad called “Falling in Love,” captures the heart-opening feeling of the dawn of a new relationship. One of Anastasia’s personal favorites on the album is “Nostalgia,” which she describes in this way: “I wrote this piece when I was fourteen and since then, playing this piece brings back feelings of nostalgia. The piece is notably short, and I have contemplated finding a way to make it longer, yet doing so would have taken away from its authenticity. This is one of the very few pieces that I have left completely unchanged since originally composing (except for the title… I don’t know what I was thinking when I originally titled this piece Searching for Myself.)” A particular painting she saw in a Greek art gallery evokes the feeling of nostalgia for her. The album draws to a serene conclusion with a track that portrays something we are all longing for, “True Happiness.”
Anastasia’s stirring solo piano compositions reflect an emotional rainbow of feelings and flights of fantasy. Her classical influences are strongly felt, yet there is another part of her creative spectrum that has been awakening and may find expression in the future. As she explains: “Because the piano is the only instrument I physically play, it is easiest for me to compose on the piano and so I have stuck with it. With my classical background, improvising soft and mellow melodies just comes naturally. I really hope to transition into a different genre over the next few years, using music synthesizers. I can picture myself writing both chill out and trance songs using computer software down the road.” I’m sure that whatever musical paths Anastasia chooses to follow in the days to come, that they will be as evocative and expressive as the elegant melodies found on Reminiscent.