Born in Germany but now based in Copenhagen, Thomas Kudela aka Sternlumen is a modern classical composer who by his own admission took a seven-year-long break from the piano a few years ago. An impressive self-titled début in 2016 somewhat opened the emotional floodgates for the musician when he returned to face the instrument, triggering a flow of continuous music. The notes keep flowing on Nørrebro Nights, the musician’s latest opus released on Totta Leela Music via Gateway Music on 23 September 2017 last.
Performed on a Steinway D grand piano, Sternlumen’s music is of course reminiscent of Nils Frahm or Lubomyr Melnyk, particularly on the opening track “Red Wine Melancholia” with its flurry of notes, rapidly recurring motifs and subtle variations. The album is a tribute to the Nørrebro area in Copenhagen, the vibrant and multicultural neighbourhood which the pianist now calls home.
The key to Sternlumen’s music perhaps lies in his own artistic perception of light and luminosity and how it affects the visible world around him, a central concern for impressionist painters of course. The cover artwork for his début album featured a nocturnal and hazy moonlit sky, perhaps a visual interpretation of his own stage name – Stern Lumen can be translated as “the luminous flux radiating from the stars”. The artwork for his current release displays a monochrome painting of Dronning Louises’ Bridge in Copenhagen captured perhaps at dawn, just before the daylight reveals a full palette of colours.
The music on Nørrebro Nights not only celebrates “the different experiences and moods” in the urban district, it also attempts to translate musically how the passing of the day, nightfall, night lights and the aurora alter both the city atmosphere and the frame of mind of the attentive observer.
It is a culmination of feelings like melancholia, exuberance, friendship, new found love and that special atmosphere of dawn during Nordic summers.
“Neon Lakes”, “Kierkegaard between trees and spheres” and closing the album “Morgendämmerung” (daybreak) all evoke musically a particular place at different times of the day, the shimmering sunlight rippling on the water surface, leafy trees filtering the daylight and reflecting the night lights or the gradual shift of brightness at the dawning of the day.
Nørrebro Nights (or should it read “Nørrebro Lights”?) beautifully draws on minimalism to express these slight nuances on the piano.