Misha Alperin: At Home (ECM 1768)

At Home

Misha Alperin
At Home

Misha Alperin piano
Recorded at home by Misha Alperin, February 1998
Edited and mastered at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Album produced by Manfred Eicher

Misha Alperin has been something of a shadowy presence in the annals of ECM. His previous albums—namely, Wave Of Sorrow, North Story, and First Impression—marked him as an enigmatic musician of sparse yet effective language, at times of humor and gaiety. But if you want to know how the Ukrainian-born pianist’s heart beats, the forms his dreams take, let At Home be your looking glass. The aching lyricism of the title track, which opens this collection of improvised pieces, is all you need to know what’s going on: a private, reflective session surrounded by Alperin’s most familiar things. Recorded at his home in Norway, where he has lived for the past two decades, the program unfolds in a mosaic portrait of the artist in various stages of emotional awareness.

Remarkable about this album (and true also of Keith Jarrett’s Facing You) are the levels of evocation sustained throughout. It’s as if Alperin were letting himself fall and trusting in the piano strings to catch him in their net. It is inspiring to experience such breaking down of hesitations—to feel, for example, the subterranean forces of “Nightfall” digging so deep it almost hurts to imagine their visceral impact. In “Shadows” Alperin makes use of space as a brush artist would of ink, expressing much with little. Intermittent clusters and arpeggiated phrases share the piano’s natural resonance, stretching phonemes into the speech of “10th of February.” It is the album’s most figural piece, contrasting a circular left hand with a circling right: a night flight of unfathomable scope in under five minutes. Behind the winged structures of “The Wind” thrive unlived pasts, histories beyond the ken of the hermetic performer at the keyboard, lives whose implications are decades yet in knowing.

The album is not without its whimsy. A Norwegian folk dance provides the inspiration for “Halling,” which might have felt out of place in the program were it not for the integrity of its spirit. “Light” and “Game” bring further playfulness to the fore, in the former offsetting potentially ominous chords and in the latter rummaging through a toy chest of childhood relics. With these Alperin creates sparkling vignettes, one after another, until the outtake of “Njet” chambers the parent calling to the child, the husband to the partner, flowing down the hallways into light.

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