The Jakarta Post
New release: Composer and pianist Ananda Sukarlan launches his new album Love & Variations, a compilation of the works he created in the past year, in Jakarta. (Ananda Sukarlan Center for Music & Dance/File)
Classical pianist and composer Ananda Sukarlan recently celebrated the release of his album Love & Variations, a compilation of the works he created in the past year.
The title clearly reflects what’s inside the record: 19 compositions that fill the wide spectrum of human emotions, “from the noblest and most joyful, to the darkest and saddest side of love,” the composer described.
Soprano singer Mariska Setiawan and tenor Widhawan Aryo Pradhita lent their voices to some of Ananda‘s songs. Both won the prize for Best Vocalist at the Ananda Sukarlan’s Poetic Song Competition in 2011 and 2013, respectively.
While some songs on Love & Variations heavily feature piano arrangements, those that contain lyrics are “Prabahita” and “Iras,” which are musical adaptions of poems by Adimas Immanuel; as well as “Sejarah Sajadah” (History of a Prayer Mat) and “Chrysanthemum,” based on the works of poet Hasan Aspahani.
Ananda also wrote four Spanish songs for the compilation album, titled “Fragmento de Oda a Salvador Dali” (Fragments of Oda to Salvador Dali), “Las Seis Cuerdas” (The Six Strings), “En el Silencio de la Noche” (In the Silence of the Night) and “Galatea,” all of which are dedicated to Spanish artists Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) and Miguel Cervantes (1547-1616).
“The compositions were commissioned by the Spanish government last year to commemorate 400 years and 80 years of Cervantes and Lorca’s deaths, respectively,” explained Ananda, who is currently based in Spain, but marked the launch of his new album in Jakarta on March 19.
The song “An Ode to the Nation,” meanwhile, is a piece Ananda wrote at the request of Indonesia’s third president, BJ Habibie, and was inspired by Habibie’s speeches and prayers for his late wife, Hasri Ainun Besari.
It features a piano arrangement accompanied by a moving solo sung by Widhawan and backed by a children’s choir.
“Last year Pak Habibie requested the composition as a tribute to two mothers: his motherland of Indonesia and the mother of his children,” Ananda told an audience of reporters, friends and fans at the Grand Signature’s piano showroom in Plaza Indonesia, Central Jakarta.
In the intimate setting of his album’s launch event, Ananda shared the story behind his songs.
“As a child living with Asperger’s and Tourette’s syndrome, learning to play the piano helped me identify my emotions, and poems helped me express them,” he said. “Piano is the most important instrument in my life, but the human voice is very important to me as well. I often write songs inspired by the vocals of a singer.
“That is the reason this album only comprises piano and vocals; it’s a tribute to the main inspirations behind my work.”
Most of the songs on Love & Variations were performed at his Jakarta New Year Concert in January, including “Ibu Pertiwi” (Motherland) and “December 2016.” Ananda composed the latter — which he played on a transparent, acrylic-cased Blüthner piano during the launch — out of his concern for the rise of intolerance in the country.
“The aliquot stringing system and the fourth string add color to the treble and harmonize with the singing voice,” he said, explaining his reasons for using the piano to record the album.
Soprano singer Delta Damiana and tenor Daniel Victor were part of the audience and joined Ananda on the unique instrument with an impromptu performance of his early work “Dalam Doaku” (In My Prayers), a musical rendition of Sapardi Djoko Damono’s poem of the same name.
“I hadn’t played it in quite a while, but it reminded me of the loneliness I felt while working on this composition. I realized that my limitation is often my inspiration,” he said.