A wonderous collection of 14 works, full of crystalline beauty and poignant, wistful melancholia; “Some of the saddest music I’ve ever written,” adds Stréliski. Some of the most stunningly beautiful, too, from the soft, gentle Rêveries to the calm, haunting sweep of BORDERS.
We are sorry to inform you that, in this store, Néo-Romance is only available to Canadian customers.
Long associated with the neo-classical movement, Alexandra Stréliski wanted to distance herself from a tag that doesn’t accurately reflect her work. Inspired by the idea of encapsulating and expressing emotions through art, and the Romantics’ love of individual expression over the restraints of tradition, she set out to follow her instinct. “I’m much more of a romantic in the sense that I express my own inner world to make sense of the wider world,” she says. “So, the thread I’m pulling on here is the idea of neo-romance, in a musical way but also as a form of contemplation.”
Composing and recording in Europe for the first time, she also worked with several new musicians and collaborators and explored her family’s past – “following my roots,” is how she describes it. Néo-Romance itself was written mainly in Rotterdam, where Stréliski moved to be with her partner. And in doing so, she discovered some surprising – and prescient – facts about her own past. She visited homes in Amsterdam where her ancestors once lived; consulted a library in Paris to find compositions of her forebearers, teachers and composers from the Romantic Age.
“My dad is French, my family have Polish Jewish origins, and I somehow ended up exactly where they used to live. I always felt that I was the only musician in my immediate family – that I was just this weirdo artist – but it turns out my ancestors were all directors, violinists, and theatre managers; many of the women were actresses. I didn’t know the story, so it opened these doors of reflection and identity. Of asking: ‘Where do I come from? Does music follow you through generations? What does this mean in my life?’”
These notions of collective identity and shared history resonated deeply with Stréliski, compounded by the forced separations and feelings of isolation brought on by pandemic lockdowns. Folded into her nascent musical ideas, Néo-Romance took shape, the songs coming “from a very deep, very personal space” but expressing something much broader. Something with a narrative. “Néo-Romance is more about imagining things and telling stories. To lose yourself whilst listening, as a way to resist disenchantment and isolation”.
Besides, Romanticism has long been a part of Stréliski’s musical life. “I was raised playing and listening to Chopin, so it resides deep in my core,” she says. “I feel like a romantic composer myself. And with a new love leading me back to Europe, to my roots and these discoveries, it just all came together. It made perfect sense.”
The result is a wonderous collection of 14 songs, full of crystalline beauty and poignant, wistful melancholia; “Some of the saddest music I’ve ever written,” adds Stréliski. Some of the most stunningly beautiful, too, from the soft, gentle Rêveries to the calm, haunting sweep of BORDERS. There’s The hills and The Breach, whose quick ascending and descending piano arpeggios lend a sense of urgency and edge, and the slow, unfurling of a new romance, the thoughtful and uplifting album closer.
Néo-Romance is a spacious listen too, Stréliski unafraid to take long pauses, letting the music really breathe and “speak in the silences,” as she puts it. “I really wanted to take my time – there’s something more mature in not speaking than in speaking. But then I’m also very melodic driven, very thematic – I mostly want my music's emotional sincerity and evocative nature to shine through.”
Another first: Stréliski wrote for and recorded a string trio in Paris, two of whom from Poland, adding to the Polish-Jewish thread she feels has left traces through her music. She also recorded a church organ, layering it subtly beneath her piano lines. The strings on First Kiss gently soar and swoop, adding depth and texture; on Élégie – one of Néo-Romance’s most emotional, dramatic pieces – a gorgeous, plaintive violin takes centre stage, stirring the soul and tugging the heart. “I’m very proud of that song,” she says. “It’s so very different to what I’ve previously written.”
Such details came from Stréliski’s desire to “broaden the spectrum a little, to go deep within the emotions.” Thus each piece is a small chronicle, a self-contained little world. “They all tell their stories,” she says. The flow and pacing are deliberate, too, forming a narrative arc that “really brings you from one place to another through all the ups and downs.”
And it all comes back to that central idea – to dare to keep dreaming, no matter what life throws at us. “I want people to remember the importance of the immensity of our emotional spectrum as humans, and the universality of it, as opposed to being polarised. We all go through the same, shared traumas – life, death, breakups – so how can we remain hopeful and dreamers of our own, wonderful existence? We can get lost and live in our emotions, pure as they are – it’s all within us, and I see hope in that.”
- 320 kbps
- Secret City Records (Canada) / XXIM, Sony Masterworks (Rest of world)
- Alexandra Stréliski / Maxime Navert
- Pierre-Olivier Rioux / Maxime Navert
- Pierre-Olivier Rioux
- Anthony Francoeur-Vallière
- Giacomo de Paola
- Bo Kondren
- Piano / Organ
- Alexandra Stréliski