Album Review: Frank Clare – Admiratio Magna

One man’s new age music is another’s neoclassical. On his debut release, pianist and composer Frank Clare aims for the latter. The crystalline and unadorned piano textures that grace this collection are gentle, subtle and often spare, making superb use of what musicians call “the spaces between the dots,” in other words, silence. Most of the track titles on this wholly instrumental set are in Latin, though the track subtitles (“A Gathering of Possibilities,” “The Bells of Noumenania,” “Goodbye Hello”) offer at least some clue as to the thinking that has gone into each composition.

The press materials for Admiratio Magna explain that the album explores themes like “the inevitable cycle of creation,” but of course it’s up to each and every listener to take from the music what they will. Contemplative and inward-looking, these seven pieces – each of which runs six minutes plus; some twice that length – have a simple beauty that invites – no, demands – active listening.

For some listeners, the label neoclassical suggest atonality and dissonance; you’ll fin precious little of either on this set. Clean, uncluttered ivory-tinkling is the order of the day (hence my use of the “new age” label; your mileage may well vary). Only on “III. Apotheosis: L’Extase” does Clare reveal anything close to a forceful melodic line. The music is such that it doesn’t often suggest a particular mood or emotion: those choices and impressions are also left to the listener.