Brian Crain was a musically inclined child, but he was never formally educated in music, and yet has still found success as a pianist/composer. He was born in Hollywood, and although offered piano lessons, he preferred honing his baseball skills to practicing. He also built his own home studio while working on audio production for films as a teenager. Crain’s dreams of being a professional ballplayer did not come to fruition, but in the meantime, he had managed to teach himself how to play piano as he picked out his own melodies. He released his first CD, Morning Light, in 1997, and met with enough success to make music his career. Crain has since made more than a dozen albums of his own music. The use of one of his piano pieces, Butterfly Waltz, in a South Korean drama has made him an artist better known in Asia than in his home country. He has a large fan base and toured there several times, as his music is used in more TV commercials and programming. Crain enjoys trying new ideas in his music, such as unusual meters and minimalist concepts used on his albums Piano Opus (2011) and Piano and Light (2009), to complement his flowing, attractive melodies. (by Patsy Morita)
In 2004, Brian Crain took the opportunity to reflect on his recording portfolio by revisiting his catalog and re-recording with a string quartet. Apparently, this was one small step toward the giant leap that Crain has made here. The great adventure is that his latest recording includes a collaboration with the 52 member Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. This progressive statement comes without the backing of any recording label and yet the results are grand and magnificent.
In a short two-year period, Crain has gone from the synthesized string arrangements of the 2003 Sienna to organic warmth of the quartet arrangements on his retrospective release last year. This time around Spring Symphonies, despite all the risks and investment is not only a heroic but equally bold and successful creative step. Crain not only collaborated with a full orchestra, he also traveled to the Czech Republic which was probably a huge financial risk taking into account that the project comes with no label backing.
Considering the creative use of an orchestra, the classical influences are obvious and are even reflected in the title of the compositions that are also divided into two symphonies. The intermission comes courtesy of the one stripped down track appropriately entitled “Piano Solo”. The tempo is slow and the mood very somber giving the album its most philosophical and reflective moment. Otherwise, the remainder of the album makes full use of the orchestration made available to Crain who continues to emphasize the melody line that he repeats over and over with additional embellishments from various members of the orchestra. Though Crain maintains his own identity his blending of classical movements along with memorable memories brings to mind the musical comparisons of Tim Janis. The tearful strings of “Andante Affettuoso” are about as powerful as the vapors of an onion to the naked human eye.
Also most memorable is the opening movement “Andante Cantabile” that is arousing and emotive. Countered by Brian’s piano bridge brings the listener to the early realization that Spring Symphonies has something very special to say. Though not quite as complex, it would be daring to compare this album with David Foster’s Symphony Sessions and the equally remarkable Skyline Firedance of David Lanz. Again, keep in mind that these two talented artists created their epics with the backing of major recording labels. Crain still managed to pull this feat off without the same assistance.
Frankly, all of the movements are for the lack of a better phrase, very moving. But one specific mention should be given to “Allegro Maestoso” that has a stunning piano bridge that returns the listener to a luscious string overture. It is simply wonderful, as is the entire 49 minutes and odd seconds of this ambitious and audacious album.
Brian Crain has shown the ability not only to create and compose but do so on a grand scale whether it comes with major label backing or not. This artist will not be stopped and is starting to secure the word of mouth that is far overdue. However, Spring Symphonies is so superior to anything Crain has done that the only negative aspect is how does he follow up on this tour de force? However, this is a great quandary to be in. (by Michael Debbage)
Brian Crain (piano)
Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra conducted by Petr Vronsky
Symphony No. 1:
01. Andante Cantabile 6.17
02. Andantino 4.00
03. Adagio Con Amore 7.05
04. Allegro Maestoso 4.59
05.Piano Solo 4.18
Symphony No. 2:
06. Andante Affettuoso 5.12
07. Adagio Appassionato 5.41
08. Largo Maestoso 6.37
09. Allegretto 5.16
Music composed by Brian Crain