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Yukako Yamano: Imperial
World-traveling pianist Yukako Yamano released Imperial in 2018, a three-song mini-album showcasing not only her original songs but also the special instrument after which the album is named.
The inspiration for this album was the sound produced by a luxury piano the young pianist had the opportunity to play, a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial 1978. This type of grand piano has a bass-extended range of 97 keys over a full eight octaves, compared to 88 keys on a standard full-sized piano. The addition of extra bass strings and hardware not only offers the player deeper notes to strike but also enhances the total sound produced by all of the other keys with richer harmonic resonance — as well as increasing the overall size and weight of the imposing instrument.
The occasion of this recording was a fortunate happenstance. A colleague of the pianist owns this rare piano and invited Yamano to play it. It so happened that on the day, recording equipment was also available, so the playing session was captured as if it were an impromptu live performance.
Pleased with the result of the piano’s sound, Yamano decided to release the session to share the beautiful sound of the Imperial Bösendorfer. As an unplanned album produced in quick order, she offered the CD in a simple package at a handy “one-coin” price of 500 yen (about $3.50 USD).
Yamano leads off Imperial with “Symphony of Lights”, an adventurous composition with a magnificent grandeur suiting the album concept, light and cheery with an underlying fullness. The next track, “Yusha” (Hero), summons an old-world setting like a rousing march forming a grand impression. Finally, the outstanding “Catherine no Yuutsu” (Melancholy of Catherine) opens slowly in a minor key and develops into a happier gallop with promenade-style accents. This song (amusingly inspired by a diet slimming patch commercial she watched in Barcelona) is a winner, balanced and uplifting with its subtly Studio Ghibli-esque Japanese harmony rooted within an addictive and modern seven-beat frame.
Imperial by Yukako Yamano
Yukako Yamano - piano
Released in 2018 on Yukako Yamano as YKRN-0004.
Japanese names: Yukako Yamano 山野友佳子
Audio and Video
Excerpt from “Catherine no Yuutsu”, track #3 on this album: