The Beauty of A Second was an online competition that ran over the course of several months towards the end of 2011. Essentially a method to drive interest in Montblanc’s new chronograph watch, the Nicholas Rieussec, people were invited to “seize the moment” and create a one-second video (using any digital format) on any subject so long as the video highlighted the “beauty of a second”. As well as the individual 3300 videos submitted, people were also invited to choose between 2-60 of the videos and create a playlist (which were also judged). As part of the creative process for these playlists, people were invited to choose music from Montblanc’s audio library. The album The Beauty of A Second features 12 cues composed by German composer Marcus Loeber that were used to accompanying many of the video playlists, as well as during some of the internet-based promotional material (“Nicolas Rieussec (Original Theme)”).

Composer Marcus Loeber’s 20-year experience in composing music for commercials, together with his focus on piano (he has released several albums featuring compositions for solo piano) has resulted in a series of tracks based around piano that quickly establish feeling and emotion. This is necessary since these pieces have been composed to be used in videos that can be as short as 2 seconds or only as long as 60 seconds. The majority of the tracks have a strong rhythmic aspect to them that drives the music forward and gives the videos that they support energy and cohesion. This latter property is particularly important as it glues together clips that can be a bit jarring because of the variety of some of the clips. “Watching The Flow No. 4 (Extended Mix)” and “Tourbillion (Extended Mix)” are good examples where Loeber weaves a variety of rhythms from synth percussion and what sounds like a glockenspiel around a base solo piano thread. These rhythm-based tracks all give the feeling of the passage of time that links in with the whole idea behind the competition (and the product). As well as the extensive use of rhythm, the careful use of certain instruments and motifs also reinforce the idea of time and timepieces: for example, the glockenspiel motif at the beginning of “Watching The Flow No. 4 (Extended Mix)” and “Watching The Flow (Competition Version)” evokes the sudden ringing of an alarm clock at the start of another day. Some tracks however do have a more emotional feel to them rather that the driven energy of tracks such as “Tourbillion (Extended Mix)”. “At The Very Moment (Minimal Piano)” and “Moment (Solo Piano)” have a delicate quality that’s clearly aimed to those competitors requiring a slower-paced, more reflective mood for their video compilations. These moodier pieces tend to be played on solo piano and a significant number of cues on the album feature only piano, including some versions of larger scale orchestral versions created for the competition itself (e.g., “Hands (Orchestral Competition Version)” and ”Hand (Solo Piano Version)”).

It is the solo piano tracks that linger in the mind once the album has come to an end. There’s a simplistic quality in tracks such as “Hands (Solo Piano Version)”, “At The Very Moment (Minimal Piano)” and “Moment (Solo Piano)” that (paradoxically) are timeless and I found myself being lost in the moment. It is at these times the album is at its strongest. Unfortunately, the occasional use of obviously synth-derived strings is grating and gives a cheap sound (e.g., the various orchestral versions of “Hands”). Also, the majority of the tracks featured in The Beauty of A Second tend to be static even though much of the music has a driven quality (again paradoxical for a project such as this): although there’s the energy of the rhythms, the music tends not to be developed on from the ideas set out at the beginning of the cue. Rather, the music repeats several times, probably to allow for the tracks to be edited down to the length of the videos created. The slower, more emotional tracks succeed in avoiding this. The Beauty of A Second therefore is a mixed bag; a collection of short “competition” cues, tracks where some of these ideas have been taken and expanded them up but not necessarily developed in a satisfying way, but there are some tracks that are capable of leaving a mark on the listener. In the end it is the tracks that feature solo piano that make this album worthwhile and I would recommend this album (with some reservations) for these solo pieces alone. The Beauty of A Second is available from a variety of online digital stores and many of the videos can be viewed on YouTube.

Audio samples can be found HERE.

Rating: **½

  1. Nicolas Rieussec (Original Theme) (2:57)
  2. Hands (Orchestral Competition Version) (1:06)
  3. Hands (Solo Piano Version) (4:45)
  4. Watching The Flow No. 4 (Extended Mix) (4:58)
  5. Tourbillion (Extended Version) (4:13)
  6. At The Very Moment (Minimal Piano) (4:59)
  7. Little Moving Things (Minimal Piano) (3:19)
  8. Moment (Solo Piano) (2:32)
  9. Hands (Alternate Orchestral Mix) (1:06)
  10. Hands (Demo Version) (4:25)
  11. Marie (Demo Version) [Bonus Track] (4:25)
  12. Watching The Flow (Competition Version) (0:59)

Running Time: 39:50

billibaberecords (2011)

Mainly Piano

At the Very Moment is the third piano album from German composer Marcus Loeber. His first two albums, Songs For Emelie (2004) andTwo Sides (2005), both blew me away, and At the Very Moment has had no less of an impact. The twenty tracks represent moments in the composer’s life, told through music in what Loeber calls a “minimal piano” style. A few of the tracks are played on keyboards or have electronic enhancement, but most are played on a beautiful grand piano. The album is available for download, but give yourself a treat and buy the CD. It includes a 64-page booklet with full-color photos, the stories behind many of the pieces, and a variety of musings by Marcus Loeber himself. It’s a very impressive package! And the music, ahhh, the music! Loeber is truly a consummate artist who composes and performs from a very personal place within, revealing his heart and the truths that live there. Some of the pieces are joyful, while some are darker and more introspective. Although there is a variety of musical styles, the album has a seamless flow. This one is certain to be on my Favorites list for 2011!

I can’t tell you about all twenty tracks, but I’ll hit some of the highlights. At the Very Moment begins with “Cold Winter,” a slow, quiet piece that beautifully describes winter’s peaceful chill. “Waltz in G Minor” was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, where The Beatles recorded. The waltz is in a classical style with a contemporary sensibility - sweet and graceful. “Reflections” was inspired by a cab ride in New York City as the sun was about to set. Performed on keyboard, this piece has a mysterious, haunting quality that I really like. “Inspiration” truly is minimal piano, with lots of open space and a gentle touch. “Hope” is also very spare, but it conveys a very emotional message that touches deeply. I love this one! I also love “Little Waltz in A Minor,” a melancholy piece that seems almost tragic. Again, with a minimal number of notes, Loeber conveys so much feeling. An alternate version of this wonderful piece comes later in the album. “Menuet in A Minor” begins in the upper registers of the piano, sounding almost like a charming little music box. The music builds as it evolves, and the middle section is big and booming with lots of bass octaves; then the original theme alternates with the middle theme. This one sounds like fun to play! “Missing You” is a gorgeous tribute to a beloved Dachshund who graced the Loeber family for twelve years. I can relate! It is followed by “Arthur’s Rag,” and Arthur is the doxie’s successor. Playful and carefree, it’s a delight (I’m sure Arthur is, too!). “Carrousel” sounds like a haunted merry-go-round or an old French film. The left hand plays a steady oom-pa-pah while the right hand dances around the piano - pure fun and sure to bring a smile! “At the End of the Session” is a lovely improvisation recorded at Abbey Road after the other tracks were finished with time remaining in the session. “Time To Leave” concludes this incredible album. Recorded in Berlin, it is a lingering “so long for now,” 

At the Very Moment is an exceptional album in every way, and I give it my highest recommendation. It is available fromwww.marcusloeber.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Bravo, Marcus!

Kathy Parsons



Norderstedt News

Mainly Piano

Two Sides

Marcus Loeber 

2005 / Billibaberecords

137’33” (2 discs)

“Two Sides” is an exciting second release from German pianist Marcus Loeber. This two-disc set includes a booklet with liner notes and explanations about where the inspiration for the songs came from in both English and German, and photos. Beautifully designed, this is a great package inside and out. Loeber says that the two discs differ in that Disc 1 is more quiet and pensive while Disc 2 is bigger and more experimental. This is true to a point, but overall, these CDs are both fairly quiet and introspective. The second CD does contain more jazz elements, but the majority of those pieces are still on the peaceful side of the musical spectrum. To make things even better, there are three duets with Peter Kater! Holy smokes! Is this piano heaven or what?!?!

Disc 1 begins with a melancholy piece called “All Things Will End.” This beautiful piece is played simply, but with deep emotion that conveys sadness and pain, but also hope. This is just a preview of what is to come. Next is a sweet little waltz called “Moonshine” that was inspired by a concert Loeber played in the Hamburg planetarium. “For You” is a gentle love song that again is simple but very emotional. “Saturday” is a beautiful, minimalist improvisation that was composed on a rainy evening in the dark with just a candle on the piano, and is as peaceful as it gets. Very open, but also very personal - wow! “Elvin’s Tune” was recorded live as a tribute to the great jazz drummer Elvin Jones. Very sad and quiet, the piece is wonderful, but I wish the concert applause wasn’t included - a very minor criticism. “Thursday” is another improvisation and one of my favorites. Pensive, reflective, and exploratory, this is a real beauty. “Moment 2” is another favorite - gently bittersweet and very graceful. “Conversation in D” is the first of the duets with Peter Kater. The duets were recorded so that the sound from one piano comes from one speaker and the second piano comes from the other. The two artists had never met or played together before, but the duets are seamless and enchanting. Kater is one of the most incredible improvisers on the planet, and also one of the best duet musicians, so these collaborations are amazing.

Disc 2 opens with a sprightly little prelude called “The Hop-a-Long Song” that gives a hint that the second disc will be somewhat lighter than the first. “Butterflies” is the perfect musical description of the lightness and beauty of these creatures. “Arpeggio #1” was written for a film about runners. A theme and variations style makes this piece a bit more formal than some of the others, but it has a lovely flow. “Promenade” has a light-hearted ragtime style that depicts a walk with a young daughter on a sunny afternoon - quite different from the other pieces. “A Spanish Mood” is also different - very classically Spanish, it is easy to hear the possibility of this piece being played on guitar. “Monday” and “Rainy Day” are also favorites. Both are very dark and brooding, and were either recorded on electronic piano or with a lot of reverb, creating an atmospheric effect of openness and space. “All Things Will End” is a duet version of the opening track of Disc 1. The two artists are in such synch that it’s very hard to tell there are two of them playing. “Eruption” is the most experimental piece in the collection. Very discordant and abstract, this is the antidote to the quiet musings of most of the rest of the music. Interesting, and Loeber did tell us Disc 2 was going to be different! “Dear Nathan” is a sweet, flowing lullaby for Peter Kater’s young son. “Clockwork” is another experimental piece, but is much gentler than “Eruption.” I really like this one a lot! “September” closes the collection with a piece that depicts one of the worst days of Loeber’s life when his little daughter suddenly became very ill. This piece was composed and recorded at the end of that day, and Loeber says he’ll never play it again.

So, you can see that the music from this CD is varied in styles, moods, and emotions. It is a tour de force that allows us to get quite well-acquainted with Marcus Loeber and his music. I’m very, very impressed and hope “Two Sides” will bring Loeber the international recognition that he deserves. The CD is currently available only fromwww.marcusloeber.com. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons




Mainly Piano

Songs For Emelie, Volume 1

Marcus Loeber

2004 / Billibaberecords


My first impression of “Songs For Emelie” from the beautiful black and white photo of an adult hand holding the hand of a tiny baby was that this was going to be an album of lullabies. What a happy surprise to discover a rich, full collection of piano solos that range from quiet, peaceful songs that could be used as lullabies, to much more upbeat, jazzy, and even bluesy pieces. Most of the nineteen tracks were inspired by German composer/pianist Marcus Loeber’s baby daughter, Emelie, but other aspects of Loeber’s life are also incorporated, and the extensive liner notes (in both German and English) give deep insight into the music as well as the musician. A few of the tracks have some synth additions, but most of them are spontaneous piano improvisations that are cohesive, melodic, and soothing.

It’s difficult to single out favorites in an album that’s consistently this good, but a few jump out for me. The opening track, “The Beginning,” has a very unusual rhythm track - the sound of Emelie’s heartbeat from an ultrasound recording made before she was born. Loeber plays an ambient piano line over the sound of the heartbeat, creating a distinctive opening to his album. “First Impression” conveys the mix of emotions Loeber felt as a new father the day after Emelie was born. A free improvisation, it is deeply personal and evocative, capturing the essence of what he was experiencing at the time. “Good Night” is as peaceful and gentle a lullaby as ever was. “One Finger” begins as a jazzy one-finger melody that is joined by the other nine digits later in the piece. A cool, breezy jazz piece with a nice walking bass line, we’re starting to realize that this is a very versatile pianist! “Sarabande” is a delightful surprise. Sounding a bit like a giant music box that is slightly off-kilter, the melancholy melody is just beautiful - a dance that keeps changing directions. One of my favorites! “Wide land” is a bit more classical in structure, and was inspired by the view from Loeber’s studio. Very pastoral and melodic, one gets a strong sense of peace and tranquility. “Thoughts” is a bit more ambient and floating - “I have managed to give my utmost bliss a musical frame” (from the liner notes). “Moment” is another favorite. Arising from the death of a good friend, it is obviously very sad and poignant, coming straight from the heart with both grief and questioning - quite a “moment” that speaks volumes. “Spur 29” was also inspired by tragedy - the death of a three-year-old girl at the hands of her parents. I have listened to this piece at least a dozen times, and it still brings tears to my eyes. “Tiger’s Tune” was written for the first son of some friends, and muses on how the birth of a child changes the parents’ priorities so immediately. Introspective and thoughtful, but full of warmth and love, this is also a standout piece. “First Steps” is very interesting. It begins as an etude for six hands on two pianos, and celebrates Emelie’s growing range of activities. Kind of noisy and fun, this is quite different from the rest of the album. Next, there is a minute of silence, and then Loeber finishes the CD with a wonderful blues piece that is slinky, seductive, and very dark. It is not listed as a bonus track, but I think it must be. Don’t miss it!

“Songs For Emelie” is an outstanding debut from Marcus Loeber, and I predict we’re going to be hearing a lot more from this artist! Samples are available on www.songsforemelie.com, and purchases can be made there as well. Very highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons