Stefano Bollani 'Piano Variations on Jesus Christ Superstar'

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February 2024

Stefano Bollani began playing the piano at the age of six. He devoured music whenever he could and was constantly looking for new stimuli - everywhere, in music from the past and even more so by engaging with the present. He was 14 when he saw the film “Jesus Christ Superstar” for the first time. It was an overwhelming experience for the young Bollani; he immediately fell in love with the music, the story and the whole atmosphere. He immediately bought the recording and listened to it again and again, memorizing the lyrics, but hardly dared to play the music himself. Only now - after 30 years of making music, countless recordings and concerts, Stefano Bollani decided to record his own version of the masterpiece by Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice. It was only afterwards that he realized that his own album was being released exactly 50 years after the release of the original concept album “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

So why did Stefano Bollani venture into “Jesus Christ Superstar” now? For the simple reason, as he openly admits, that he loves, appreciates and respects the original too much: the music, the arrangements, the singers. And yet he couldn't help it. For him, the only option was to create something of his own - a version that was significantly different from the original. And that’s exactly what his instrumental version for piano does. “I consciously decided to record the recording alone at the piano because I wanted to convey the feeling of a love affair between the rock opera and me.” And Bollani continued with a smile: “I am of the opinion that a love affair is better if it preserves its intimate character.« The listener should not expect a transcription for solo piano. Bollani was gratefully given special permission to reinterpret the opera. He approached the original melodies and songs completely freely, but with the greatest respect, in order to interpret them with his own playing style and musical idea, based on a wide variety of traditions, genres, styles and influences.

For his “Piano Variations on Jesus Christ Superstar,” Bollani decided to tune the piano to 432 Hz, which is rather unusual these days. On the one hand, he feels most comfortable on the piano - a question of personal taste. On the other hand, he wanted a particularly warm, gentle, deep, dense and at the same time clear piano sound (“of the past”) for his new interpretation. In his own opinion, this enabled Bollani to express the warmth and depth of the wonderfully strong and well-rounded film characters by Lloyd Webber & Rice.

Bollani doesn't usually enter the stage with a pre-prepared set list or predetermine the order of his recordings and compositions. For his “Piano Variations,” however, he insisted on respecting and maintaining the narrative structure. He wanted his piano to retell the story while taking over the singing part. The dramaturgy and its sequence were determined from the outset. However, when Stefano Bollani approaches the individual melodies of "Jesus Christ Superstar", he follows his own musical spirit and genius, freely improvising and elaborating the original material in the moment - with deep respect and great imagination. And - as always - with joy and love. (press release)

"Based on various traditions, genres, styles and influences, this interpretation, although it has moved away from the original, is extremely successful in all its drama." (Good Times, June/July 2020)

Program and cast

Stefano Bollani: piano

PORGY & BESS Jazzclub

Porgy & Bess (actually, Jazz and Music Club Porgy & Bess ) is a jazz club in the Riemergasse 11 in the 1st district of Vienna. The club , founded in 1993 is considered " the most important jazz organizer and trendy meeting point " of the Austrian capital .

The program of Porgy & Bess speaks to a very large audience , about 70,000 guests a year ; is accordingly Jazz " understood very pluralistic ," and the program " even in fringe areas , such as electronic music , contemporary music and world music penetrated . " Many international artists , particularly from the U.S. space , see also Austrian musician here an opportunity to perform . The club also offers the stage for events, such as the award of the Austrian World Music Award.

Musicologist Christian Scheib According to the Porgy & Bess " at the same time essential for the development of the musical ( jazz ) reality of a City" and needs and uses ' plain commonplace as urban space music. " It creates itself " through artistic preferences, acoustic quality , capacity and real capacity, the necessary exclusion of other clubs. " Here, the different areas of the jazz clubs allow - the area in front of the stage with tables, upstairs gallery , a lateral area with a bar at counter - different intense concentration on the concert scene . For Jazzthetik Porgy & Bess is even a " traditional club . "

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