You don’t know what a “celesta” is? You are not alone. This unknown musical instrument looks like a piano but inside it has metal plates and wooden resonators instead of strings. People say it sounds “magical”, “dreamy”, and “celestial”. Auguste Mustel, the inventor of the celesta, thought so too; hence the name.
I first heard about the existence of the celesta during my piano studies in San Sebastián (Spain) in 2004, playing the original version of Debussy’s Les chansons de Bilitis: a dancer, two harps, two flutes, celesta, and a pseudotranslation of Ancient Greek poems. So enchanting!
Normally playing celesta is just an incidental experience for an aspiring pianist, too busy unraveling the difficulties of endless piano repertoire. As a matter of fact, many professional pianists have not even as much as played one key of a celesta. As I continued my studies, I moved to The Netherlands and dedicated my Masters to orchestral playing. Playing celesta is an important task of the orchestral pianist: in symphonic repertoire the celesta shines.
During my time at the conservatory, I came in contact with Schiedmayer Celesta in Stuttgart, Germany; the only manufacturer of celestas in the world. Elianne Schiedmayer kindly answered all my questions, and there were many as I did not have an instrument at my disposal except during the short periods when I was playing with an orchestra.
Der Rosenkavalier, Lieutenant Kijé, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Das Lied von der Erde… at the sound of the first notes of the celesta, the atmosphere changes; from mundane to magical, from gloomy to hopeful. It often struck me that despite the hypnotizing sound and technical possibilities of the instrument, there was barely any original repertoire for celesta more than 120 years after its invention, and no solo recitals or recordings whatsoever.
I decided to act: with Schiedmayer’s support I began arranging (mostly) piano music and organizing celesta concerts.
I was terrified for my first concert: perhaps no one writes solo pieces for celesta because the audience does not want to hear it? It took just one performance and the sight of the delighted faces in the audience after each piece to realize that there was no celesta music because people did not realize that the celesta even existed!
The celesta is dreamy, heavenly, and invokes magical fairytale scenes. This album is a journey that highlights the dream and the magic, but touches upon some darker, deseolated and gloomy contrast along the way, before arriving at a soothing and calming end.
It is celestial. It is blue. Celestial Blue.