I have a strong desire to communicate something, through my music, to the people […] I would like to find people who in the depths of their souls feel the same way as I do. That can only be achieved through the greatest artistic sincerity in every detail of music, from the minutest technical aspects to the most secret depths. I regard creative activity as a kind of soul-fishing, and the “catch” is the best medicine for loneliness, that most human of sufferings. – Witold Lutosławski

Growing up in Gdansk and now sharing her time between Warsaw and Berlin, Hania Rani is a young classically-trained Polish pianist and composer. Her early work includes collaborations with German DJ and electronic musician Christian Löffler, with Berlin-based minimal ambient musician Hior Chronik and more recently with Polish classical cellist Dobrawa Czocher with whom she recorded Biała Flaga in 2015. Hania Rani is also a member of Polish indie band Tęskno who released their début album Mi in November 2018. Recorded between Warsaw and Reykjavik and released on 5 April 2019 last on Matthew Halsall’s Manchester-based independent label Gondwana Records, Esja is Hanna Raniszewska’s début solo piano album.

Hania Rani - Esja (2019)
Hania Rani – Esja (2019)

All tracks on Esja were either composed or recorded between Berlin, on Hania Rani’s piano in her Warsaw apartment and in Bergur Þórisson’s studio in Reykjavik. Constantly travelling to and from each location more than likely proved a great source of inspiration for the composer. Landscape plays a major part as the record and title track are named after Mount Esja outside Reykjavik. “Biesy” refers to the Bieszczady region, a mountain range stretching between South Eastern Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine.

The musician also quotes electronic, classical, jazz and pop music as sources of inspiration, alongside cinema and visual arts.

I take inspiration for the form of my own pieces from architecture and design. Then I translate this “foreign” language to my own music and the outcome is way more interesting for me than just getting it from the music.

Hania Rani’s music immediately elicits Philip Glass’ minimalism or Lubomyr Melnyk’s continuous music. The music of Warsaw-born classical composer Witold Lutosławski (1913 – 1994) is undoubtedly another major influence as the musician composed extensively for piano.

Most compositions on Esja are intuitively derived from improvisations which provides all pieces with a powerful and consistent flow. Like in a literary novel or a short story, the narration is always moving forward. Propelled by a skilful left hand, many of the faster-paced compositions such as “Glass”, “Sun”, “Hawaii Oslo” or “Biesi” are all brimming with ideas and a hypnotic pulse, each with their internal dynamics and tempo variations.

Mirroring the sound of many contemporary modern classical pianists, and of course more prominent in slow ballads like “Luka” or “Eden”, all the incidental noises from the mechanics of the upright piano are deliberately captured in the recording, adding an undeniable emotional layer to the compositions. The piano was probably prepared slightly to accentuate the rhythmic fluttering of the notes on “Glass” or to generate a delicate metallic distortion of the piano strings in the upper range towards the end of “Esja”.

The record liner notes include an extract from Lutosławski on Music, a collection of essays, lectures and articles compiled, translated and published in 2007. In “On Silence”, the classical composer observes a growing “atrophy of musical sensitivity” in the modern world generated by the omnipresence of noise and background music. “If I were not sensitive to sound, I could not be a composer” notes Lutosławski. On Esja, a superb collection of technically and melodically brilliant compositions, Hania Rani embarks on a majestic soul-fishing journey as an acutely sensitive pianist.