Reviews of the new album “Works for Solo Piano”

Works for Solo Piano


April 7, 2024:  – R. J. Lannan 

Michelle Schumann
The Music of Eric Chapelle: Works for Solo Piano
Eric Chapelle

In an unusual turn of events I reviewed Michelle Schumann as she interprets the music of composer Eric Chapelle. It is rare that you have an album instigated by the living  breathing composer himself as he invites the pianist to perform his music. Overall, Schumann is more than up for the task as she adroitly performs Chapelle’s twelve tracks of contemporary and post classical music on solo piano.

The first tune, Place in Landscape (Baga Beach) is intentionally bright bringing to mind sunshine, azure skies, and breaking waves. The Portuguese influenced the area in India called Goa for more than four hundred and fifty years. Catholic churches with their white spires still stand in the place that was once the capital of the country. Looking west, you can stand on the glistening white sands, and imagine the magic lands of Africa and Saudi Arabia just an ocean away. Schumann portrays the shoreline of Baga as a destination for the body and the soul. Chapelle’s title literally places you there.

There is a hint of Debussy on In the Presence of Beauty. The tune has an air of the nostalgia as
Chapelle’s ostinatos are painted vividly under Schumann’s hands. Beauty in its many forms is
recalled as the music conjures up a woman’s smile, a snow topped mountain in the background,
and perhaps a day like no other. The melody here is soft and sweet, a dream you can almost
touch with your heart.

One of my favorites on the album is called (Fall) Leaves Falling on a Gray Day. The music is
pensive and anticipatory as we wait for the first few drops of rain to fall. Michelle’s deft touch
and Chapelle’s flowing score combine to make us imagine the wind blowing and the branches in
the trees swaying. In the meantime the tune has fallen leaves whirling like a dervish on the
ground as the skies getting darker.

Serious post classical elements are forefront on the piece Prelude in C# Minor (In
Remembrance). It is a somber work that feels somewhat improvisational at times with
Chapelle’s tentative theme finally solidify into a kind of lament. There is plenty of room in
between the notes to think about the past. It is a contemplative work, a kind of emotional

Nocturne No. 1 is another remarkable tune with a deep sense of emotion and the theme is really
emphasized by Schumann’s masterly rendition. The music is somewhat heavyhearted, but the
melancholy is presented in a tender, yet sensitive manner. We welcome the night as we know
there are stars and dreams in our future.

The last tune is called Dusk to Dawn. Chapelle’s languid score has a note of finality to it, but
Schumann adds all the magic that is to be had when night decides to transform into day. The
slow, gentle theme is the “nachtmusik” that the soul craves to grow and to heal. Other songs
include First Light, Transformation, Place in the Landscape Moulin de Senlis, Full Circle,
Reflection No. 1, and Contemplation at a Distance (Another noteworthy tune).

For decades Eric Chapelle has been composing and producing music. He is known for
experimental as well as neo-classical works and has done extensive work for television. He has
released a number of albums including a compilation album with other composers for Navona
Records as well as his albums Our Time and Across the Water. Michelle Schumann is currently
Artistic Director of the Austin Chamber Music Center and the artist-in-residence and professor
of piano at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Some of her albums include In Memoriam: A
Modern Requiem and Late Show.

Chapelle and Schumann obviously make a good team. Schumann’s solid performances and spot on interpretations of Chapelle’s moody concepts add deliberate color and contrast to the music.
Chapelle’s dignified touch on his compositions makes the music inviting and palatable to the
listener, capturing the essence of the dream maker. All of it is very good.


March 2024:

Eric Chapelle: Works for Solo Piano
Companionable Streams Music Records

Listeners whose taste gravitates in the direction of Chopin and Debussy should find much to like about this latest collection of lyrical pieces by Austin, Texas-based Eric Chapelle. Whereas he’s behind the keyboard on his earlier recordings, for Works for Solo Piano he brought Michelle Schumann, a classically trained pianist and Professor of Music at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, aboard. She’s more than a hired hand: Schumann worked with him for three years on the recording and through her involvement influenced the writing of new compositions. Awareness of her superior technical dexterity freed him, for example, to write unreservedly challenging material knowing she’d be able to handle it. As an artful interpreter, she also enhanced the material by building on the sheet music with personal touches, be it a modification in tempo or nuance of touch. Testifying to the collaborative nature of the project, their names are displayed equally prominently on the release cover.

The release of the forty-nine-minute album, recorded in two sessions, one in June 2021 and the other May 2023, is an important event for Chapelle, considering that it’s his first full-length since 2010’s Across the Water—even if he’s issued a number of singles in the interim, four of which appear on Works for Solo Piano. In recruiting Schumann, he chose well: she’s a seasoned, award-winning musician who’s performed at venues and festivals around the world and is as comfortable playing Gershwin, Glass, and Nyman as Bach, Schubert, and Cage. Such breadth obviously attests to her versatility.

While some pieces are programmatic and rooted in Chapelle’s personal experiences, others hew to formal classical type. Titles such as “Place in Landscape (Baga Beach)” and “(Fall) Leaves falling on a gray day” suggest ties to the Impressionism of Ravel, Debussy, and Fauré, and the composer himself notes that “Place in Landscape Moulin de Senlis” was written to capture his experience at the Paris locale in the mid-‘50s as a child. At eight minutes, it’s also twice the length of most of the other pieces and thus affords the composer ample time to evoke the character of the fifteenth-century mill and the French setting. Though it’s unclear what specifically happened to Chapelle at the site, musically the material oscillates between expressions of stately grandeur and playful ones emblematic of childhood innocence. While “Place in Landscape Moulin de Senlis” doesn’t tower over the others in the set, a strong argument could be made for it as the album’s pièce de résistance. Following close behind, however, are “Reflection No. 1” and “Nocturne No. 1” when their respectively harmonious and poignant expressions are so beguiling.

The transporting character of Chapelle’s music is resoundingly conveyed in “Place in Landscape (Baga Beach)” through a lustrous combination of sparkling upper-register patterns and grounding bass chords. A similar design animates the lilting flow of “In the Presence of Beauty,” though this time the balance between the bass and treble parts is more equal. It’s also a deceptively challenging piece that benefits from a pianist with the technical command of Schumann. In keeping with its title, “(Fall) Leaves falling on a gray day” introduces a wistful, nostalgic mood to the album; a review of the score also reveals the piece to be more complex than one might suspect, alternating as it does between three sharps and six flats and a plethora of time signatures. The same could be said of the heavily chromatic “Contemplation from a Distance,” whose delicately voiced chords induce a state of drowsy calm in the receptive listener.

Unison bass and treble chords lend “Full Circle” a resonant chiming quality, though the piece includes a note by Chapelle that the chords shouldn’t be played percussively but instead “in a gentle approach as if diving gently.” The impact of Schumann on the presentation resonates clearly when she injects the subtlest of pauses between measures, a treatment that bolsters the lilting feel of the music. In keeping with its title, the brooding “Prelude in C# Minor (In Remembrance)” plays like an heartfelt homage, while the chords-driven first part of “First Light” intimates that Satie could be added to the list of Chapelle’s kindred spirits; it’s an unfailingly pretty creation, regardless. Oft serene and always evocative, his painterly music is easy to give oneself to. The reason why so many years followed the release of Across the Water isn’t clear, but hopefully it won’t be another thirteen years until the follow-up to Works for Solo Piano materializes.


(March/April 2024) of Fanfare Magazine

CHAPELLE Place in Landscape (Baga Beach). In the Presence of Beauty. First Light. (Fall) Leaves Falling on a Gray Day. Transformation. Place in Landscape Moulin de Senlis. Full Circle. Prelude in c♯ (In Remembrance). Reflection No. 1. Nocturne No. 1. Contemplation from a Distance. Dusk to Dawn • Michelle Schumann (pn) • COMPANIONABLE STREAMS 2301 (49:12)

I had not come across the name of Eric Chapelle before. Although apparently he usually performs his own music, in this instance he has handed over the reins to Michelle Schumann, a classically trained musician (as opposed to Chapelle, who is mainly known for his soundtracks). One of Chapelle’s pieces has appeared on the Navona label (on Piano Spectrums), but this appears to be his first full disc considered by Fanfare. The present project, simply entitled Works for Solo Piano, is the result of three years of collaboration. The tracks were recorded across two recording sessions, two years apart: June 2021 at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton, TX (where Schumann teaches and is an Artist-in-Residence), and May 2023 at the Draylen Mason Studio of the KMFA Classical Music Radio Station in Austin, TX.

The music is calming, for sure. There are hints of Glass in the harmonic progressions of (Fall) Leaves Falling on a Gray Day, and Michelle Schumann lavishes her full attention and love on each repeated gesture. Schumann appears 100 percent attuned to Chapelle’s music. The sensitive way she ends the second piece, In the Presence of Beauty, is a case in point. She makes complete sense, too, of the barren landscape of (Fall) Leaves Falling on a Gray Day, while imbuing the melodies when they emerge with real pathos.

There are various compositional strategies at play here. The predominance of octave passages, presented with a light touch by Schumann, in Place in Landscape Moulin de Senlis (Montgeron, a water-powered mill, presumably in France) sums up the ethos at play here: Each of these pieces is effectively a watercolor painting in sonic format.

There is something palpably Debussyan about Full Circle, but not much Chopinesque or Rachmaninoffian about the Prelude in C♯ Minor. Chapelle’s piece is an in memoriam (it has “In Remembrance” in parentheses after the main title) and indeed carries some weight, but it is not unduly laden, as if the memories are those of happier times in the deceased’s life. Reflection No. 1 acts as a prolongation, although this latter was actually the first of four singles released in 2021. These four pieces do share a reflective mood (reflection, nocturne, contemplation, and then a nighttime piece), with Contemplation from a Distance daring to extend the remit to a lace of near silence. The final Dusk to Dawn is thematically linked to Contemplation from a Distance, the latter taking a single gesture and slowing it down, examining it, inviting in if not full-blown hypnosis then certainly a slightly altered state in the process.

The recording quality from both locations and times is fine, if a touch lacking in depth. This is not a disc for concentrated listening. Rather it is expertly conceived music for relaxation, and the album does stand up to scrutiny, a rarity in this ambient field. Colin Clarke

This article originally appeared in Issue 47:4 (Mar/Apr 2024) of Fanfare Magazine.


Mainly Piano Songbook Reviews

Review by Kathy Parsons

Works for Solo Piano

Eric Chapelle

2024/ Universal Edition

62 pages / 12 songs

Works For Solo Piano is the companion sheet music book for Eric Chapelle’s 2024 recording by the same name. All twelve pieces from the recording are included, and the full songbook can be purchased as a PDF download or a printed book. (I played the music from a PDF download using my 8 1/2″ x 11″ iPad and found it to be very clear and easy to read.) Four of the tracks – “In The Presence of Beauty,” “Place in Landscape – Moulin de Senlis,” “Reflection #1,” and “Transformation” – can also be purchased separately. (If you are in the USA, please note that the publisher is in Vienna, Austria, so the postage is higher and it will take a bit longer for the music to arrive than it would from an outlet in the US.)

Most of the twelve pieces are very slow and are more ambient than melodic, but that doesn’t mean the music is simple to play. Pianist Michelle Schumann, a Professor of Music at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, recorded the music, and I quoted Eric Chapelle in my review of the album:

“I felt that having a classically trained pianist read the notations and then interpret the works would greatly enhance the music for the listener’s enjoyment….Michelle and I worked for three years on this project. And during that time, I was influenced to write new compositions with her in mind. Michelle’s astonishing ability to take on any technical challenges pushed me to write in a different way.”

Overall, I would rate most of the pieces at an early-advanced to advanced playing level. Some of the rhythms are complex, a few pieces have several key signature changes, and the expressive nature of the music calls for a pianist who can bring out those musical colors and emotions. It will be well-worth the time to practice and master these lovely pieces, but expect some challenges along the way!

The titles of the pieces, the key(s) they are in, and the number of pages are:

Place in Landscape (Baga Beach) – Key of C (0 sharps or flats) – 7 pages
In the Presence of Beauty – Key of F minor (4 flats), Db major (5 flats), E minor (1 sharp), A minor (0 sharps or flats), E major (4 sharps), C major (0) – 4 pages
First Light – Key of Ab/F minor (4 flats) – 3 pages
(Fall) Leaves falling on a gray day – Key of F# minor (3 sharps), Gb (6 flats), F# minor/ A major (3 sharps) – 5 pages
Transformation – Key of D (2 sharps), Eb (3 flats) – 7 pages
Place in Landscape – Moulin de Senlis – Key of A minor (0), Eb minor (6 flats), Db (5 flats), Eb (3 flats) – 12 pages
Full Circle – Key of A minor (0/ C major) – 6 pages
Prelude in C# Minor (In Remembrance) – Key of E major/ C# minor (4 sharps) – 4 pages
Reflection No. 1 – Key of D (2 sharps) – 3 pages
Nocturne No. 1 – Key of D flat (5 sharps) – 3 pages
Contemplation from a Distance – Key of A minor (0) – 2 pages
Dusk to Dawn – Key of A minor (0) – 2 pages

Posted on March 22, 2024


From Music Taste Blog

Works For Solo Piano by Eric Chapelle and Michelle Schumann

Works For Solo Piano composed by Eric Chapelle and performed by Michelle Schumann is a compelling collection of piano arrangements with emotionally charged moments, communicated articulately with the contrast of gentle moments. That juxtaposition leads to a diverse and engaging listening experience. Schumann breathes life into Chapelle’s compositions, building on his work with her own style of smooth emotive finesse. The project feels both collaborative and true to her individual interpretation of his compositions.

Works for Solo Piano

The first track, Place in the Landscape, has this wonderfully diverse sound with high, ethereal attributes and deep bass. That contrast creates a beautiful tension, added to by moments of dissonance in the melody that ends up getting resolved. It’s a nice introduction to the style of the album, showing off the skilful piano playing from Schumann across the whole track.

First Light further utilises the balance between a high and low register to build a melancholic, liminal melody that shifts and changes as the track develops. This song also shows Chapelle isn’t afraid of quieter sections within his composition, trusting the listener with languid, quiet moments that allow them to reflect. Its quiet peace and liminal melody help to capture the sense of the first light in the morning and the intense silence that comes from that moment in time. In general, the album does a great job of connecting the titles thematically with the composition of the track in a way that doesn’t compromise the musical experience of each track or the album as a whole.

Another example of that is Leaves Falling. The track has a faster pace than some of the other songs on the album, filled with energy and a subtle sense of vibrancy though Schumann’s performance. I feel this is to replicate the ebb and flow of leaves falling from trees as the wind blows. The ethereal high notes seem to represent the leaves falling.

Transformation is my favourite on the album. It uses dissonance to tell a story. The song begins feeling tonally confused. Every note doesn’t quite fit with the previous one. As the track goes on, it begins to sound more comfortable in its skin, eventually becoming less dissonant and more cohesive, perfectly describing a transformation. To me, this felt like it was about growing up. However, I think the power of this track is that everyone can understand their transformations through its lens.

Reflection No.1 and Nocturne No.1 both capture a conversational, meandering tone through their melody and rhythm. They tap into a vibrancy that feels like an honest train of thought. On Nocturne No.1, this technique evolved. The song feels as if the diverse registers are conversing with each other.

Works For Solo Piano captures deeply emotional moments that feel deeply personal but also universal. By only using a piano, Chapelle and Schumann allow us to each put our perspective on every song. It’s that thematic openness that makes this album so special.

Posted November 22, 2203


Steve Sheppard Music Reviews

Review by Steve Sheppard

Works for Solo Piano

Works for Solo Piano by Eric Chapelle & Michelle Schumann

A little solo piano treasure came my way this November day, a morning where the sun bathed my senses through the curtains of a misty window, and the tones of this new brilliant work fell like dusty fragments of the day ahead. The new creation is entitled Works For Solo Piano and has been manifested into this reality by composer Eric Chapelle, he himself a fine pianist on the world stage, and the performer and pianist Michelle Schumann, a Professor of Music at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, it would turn out that this is a sublime coalescence of genius.

The release is a twelve track compilation of wondrous pieces, from the very opening composition one can feel and see the imagery of Place in Landscape (Baga Beach), a testament to its greatness could be that it took me five repeating plays before I felt I could move onward, Schumann’s performance was so compelling, and this cleverly crafted composition is sublimely penned by Chapelle to give the listener a true vista of an ambient yet stunning location to enjoy.

Moments of artistic clarity fell like autumn leaves from this tree of sound and timbre, mournful compositions like First Light built with a slow intensity but great purpose, whilst narratives like (Fall) Leaves falling on a gray day emphasised the aforementioned statement even further.

This album excels in many ways, but more so for the structures of compositional creativity and intelligence, and the simply delightfully technical masterpiece of presentation from a pianist that touches the keys with such a charming sense of nuance and expression. Tracks like Place in a Landscape, a fluent and splendid eight plus minutes of a sublime ambient classical repose, and is both inventive and crafted to a delicious perfection, whilst offerings like Reflection No. 1 are a dream filled reverie of calming tone, shade and quality.

There is a corner of musical pleasure for everyone here, pieces like the explorative Contemplation from a Distance, which would be one of my personal favourite tracks; I adore Schumann’s performance here, both artistic and knowledgeable in its desire to roam the hallways of ambience with an open mind, and our concluding offering Dusk to Dawn, an utterly evocative piece, one so redolent of the subject matter.

Works for Solo Piano by Eric Chapelle & Michelle Schumann is without doubt worth the three years it took to complete the project, in my view this is one of the finest examples of technically sublime contemporary solo piano with an artistic flair that I have heard for nearly 20 years, this is the style of solo piano that I could listen to on repeat for days, and as such I urge you to open your hearts and minds and explore the sheer genius of Works for Solo Piano by Eric Chapelle & Michelle Schumann.

Posted November 21, 2023



Review by Mike Mineo

Works for Solo Piano

Works For Solo Piano is a gorgeous album from composer Eric Chapelle and pianist Michelle Schumann. The piano works consistently consume with emotional depth and varied soundscapes, from the frolicking vibrancy of opener “Place in Landscape (Baga Beach)” to the spacious mystique of “First Light.” Chapelle’s captivating compositions are played to mesmerizing effect by Schumann, who is also a Professor of Music at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

The release represents a collaborative effort in full motion, with Chapelle having composed the tracks with Schumann in mind; her ability inspired Chapelle to push past technical challenges. “I felt that having a classically trained pianist read the notations and then interpret the works would greatly enhance the music for the listener’s enjoyment,” Chapelle explains. “Michelle and I worked for three years on this project. And during that time, I was influenced to write new compositions with her in mind. Michelle’s astonishing ability to take on any technical challenges pushed me to write in a different way.”

The highlights are numerous. “Place in Landscape Moulin De Senlis” casts a haunting quality to start, reminiscent of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s piano works, and then traversing into a spine-tingling intensity of trickling beauty past the three-minute turn. Elsewhere, “Reflection No. 1” emits a romantic, tender quality in its lusher disposition, while the closing “Dusk to Dawn” sends chills with its melancholic, nocturnal soundscape. Works For Solo Piano is a standout showcase in composition and performance from Eric Chapelle and Michelle Schumann.

Posted November 18, 2023


Mainly Piano Album Reviews

Works for Solo Piano

Review by Kathy Parsons

Eric Chapelle and Michelle Schumann

Works for Solo Piano

2023 / Companionable Streams Music

49 minutes

Review by Kathy Parsons

Eric Chapelle’s Works for Solo Piano is his first full-length album since Across the Water (2010) and Our Time (1998). Eric has released quite a few singles since then, including four from this album that were released in 2021. Chapelle composed the twelve tracks and enlisted Michelle Schumann, a Professor of Music at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, to perform the works in two recording sessions – one in June 2021 and one in May 2023. Eric performed his own works on his earlier recordings and explains why he didn’t this time:

“I felt that having a classically trained pianist read the notations and then interpret the works would greatly enhance the music for the listener’s enjoyment….Michelle and I worked for three years on this project. And during that time, I was influenced to write new compositions with her in mind. Michelle’s astonishing ability to take on any technical challenges pushed me to write in a different way.”

Works for Solo Piano begins with “Place in Landscape (Baga Beach),” a beautiful piece of shimmering tranquility that sparkles like sunlight (or moonlight) dancing on calm ocean waves. “In the Presence of Beauty” has a magical quality with a much freer flow that seems to be continuously changing and evolving. “First Light” is one of my favorites. The first movement is very slow and peaceful – much like the atmosphere right before dawn. The second movement is somewhat more dramatic, but remains quiet and dreamy. As its title suggests, “Transformation” also seems to evolve as it unfolds. This gradual transformation is very smooth and natural, sometimes expressed in quiet tones and sometimes with a bit more drama. At over 8 minutes, “Place In Landscape Moulin de Senlis” has plenty of time to tell its magical tale about an historical landmark in France that used to be an old water mill. Photos show the area to be both beautiful and stately, and I can only imagine how many stories it could tell from its long history. The music itself has many themes that are seamlessly woven together – some dark and serious, and some that are lighter – and are always fascinating and expressive. “Prelude in C# Minor (In Remembrance)” is very pensive and reflective, possibly working through feelings of loss at the piano. Ms Schumann obviously really understood the piece and plays it with deep emotion.

The four singles that were released in 2021 are the four last tracks on the album. Recorded on a different piano (a Steinway Model D), there is a slight change in the piano sound, but it isn’t distracting. “Reflection No. 1” is warmly romantic as well as contemplative and dreamy. “Nocturne No. 1” is slow, fluid and very serene. It feels like the most pleasant of dreams and could also serve as a sweet lullaby for kids of any age – another favorite! Very quiet, spare and impressionistic, “Contemplation From a Distance” soothes and relaxes, enveloping the listener in a soft cloud of beautiful sounds. The album comes to a close with “Dusk to Dawn.” Very peaceful and ambient, it beautifully reflects on the quiet tranquility of the time when the world settles down for the night.

Works for Solo Piano is beyond impressive and was well worth the wait between albums. Eric Chapelle may have composed his “magnum opus” with this album, and Michelle Schumann’s artistry is the perfect match for this music. CDs are available from Eric’s website. Downloads are available from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes. The album is also available from many of the streaming platforms. This contemporary classical album is highly recommended!

Posted on October 11, 2023