Inner Symphonies (2lp) / Rani, Czocher
Hania Rani and Dobrawa Czocher are the latest female composer duo to sign with Deutsche Grammophon. They began making music together in their early teens and discovered an instinctive artistic connection with each other. Both are now successful musicians in their own right, but that special bond has remained. "There's a big sisterhood between us," Rani explains. Czocher agrees, adding, "When you're siblings, you can be honest. We trust each other." This sense of mutual trust and understanding inspired their DG debut album. Written by composer, pianist and vocalist Hania and composer and cellist Dobrawa, and recorded by them in their native Poland, Inner Symphonies is their first complete album of original works. The central element of Inner Symphonies is hope. During Lockdown, Hania and Dobrawa were able to encourage each other, both as friends and as musical collaborators, as they began composing this distinctive set of pieces. "I remember Hania telling me that her grandmother used to say, 'Spring will come, that's for sure,'" Dobrawa recalls. "The world seemed to fall apart when we started working on the album, but we had hope for a better future. And it was a pleasure to have the Deutsche Grammophon team by our side. They were so supportive, and that gave us the freedom to develop our music." Inner Symphonies began with video phone calls and then developed spontaneously when Hania and Dobrawa finally met at Hania's childhood home in Gdańsk and renewed their long friendship in person. They explored ideas together, improvised material that formed the basis for individual tracks, and when not writing, reflected on their values and artistic insights. "We had a lot of time to talk, to ask what you really want in the moment, what music means to you," Dobrawa recalls. "That time was really precious. We also had a lot of fun. We did yoga and went for walks in the woods." Their love of nature is reflected on the album, along with themes of friendship and hope. The contrasting tracks work together in light and shadow to construct a unique, introspective soundscape, from the slow, mysterious beauty of "Whale's Song" to the head-spinning motion of "Con Moto," whose restless energy is heightened by the gentle melody that emerges amidst endlessly rushing notes on piano and cello. "'Con Moto,' as the name implies - with motion, alive, with spirit - was our attempt to give an idea of the power that all living matter embodies," the artists explain. "Repetitive rhythms in piano and cello, pulsation, energy and dynamics were our tools to create this piece. It was especially interesting to compose something that contrasts so much with the position we were in during the lockdown - 'Con Moto' is therefore also our ode to freedom." The video was shot in the historic auditorium of Krakow's Teatr Stary (Old Theatre). "The atmosphere in the air of all the great plays performed here leaves you speechless," say Hania and Dobrawa. "We wanted to create a contrast: acoustic instruments and majestic architecture on one side, synthesizers and the modern feel of our work on the other. This eclecticism makes a unique impression." To capture the symphonic sound of Inner Symphonies, the pair invited other musicians - all close friends from their student days - to perform with them, so the layers originally written for cello are played here by violin, viola, a second cello and double bass. Hania Rani and Dobrawa Czocher discovered their kindred spirits while studying at the Feliks Nowowiejski Music School in Gdańsk - both later studied at Warsaw's Fryderyk Chopin University of Music, where their friendship blossomed. Since then, Dobrawa has been principal cellist of the Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom she performs both in Poland and abroad. As a composer, she strives to connect with others on a deep emotional level, and she certainly succeeds in Timelines, her latest contribution to DG's "Project XII." Hania has since composed for strings, piano, voice and electronics and has performed in venues across Europe. Her debut solo album, Esja, went gold in Poland and entered the Top 100 in the UK charts. Last year she wrote a stunning reworking of Debussy's La damoiselle élue for Víkingur Ólafsson's Reflections project. Her latest solo release, Music for Cinema and Theatre, found its way into the Top 10 of the UK Classical Charts. In 2015, the pair were delighted to join forces and create their first album together. Biała flaga ("White Flag") features imaginative reworkings of ten pieces by the late Polish composer and Republika frontman Grzegorz Ciechowski. These and the other pieces they composed together reveal influences from sources as diverse as Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Agnes Obel, Henryk Górecki, Karol Szymanowski and Robert Schumann, but their music defies easy comparisons with the work of others. Hania and Dobrawa signed to the yellow label in late May 2021, shortly after putting the finishing touches on Inner Symphonies. "Inner here means something small, private, intimate, while Symphonies means something big," notes Hania. "It's a new adventure for us."