‘Musical mastermind’ is the only way I can describe Luke Navin. I was so thrilled that he was brought to my attention and am now converted into an ever devoted fan! A first year student at Oxford , Luke’s talent is undeniable both in the forms of pianist and composer. His debut album ‘7 and a Half Visions of Love‘ is a stunning collection of original compositions for the solo piano, emitting a romantic approach to a beautiful, modern real-life love story. Full of gorgeously rich, melodic phrasing throughout, the album is sprinkled with contemporary touches, creating a listen that’s appealing to anyone from new audiences to those who enjoy film music and works from the great Romantic composers.
‘7 and a Half Visions of Love’ follows a dreamlike journey of love that so many people can identify with along the way, from the moment strangers’ eyes meet across a crowded room, to infatuation; the blossom of developing love. As the album flows, we are transported through a hurricane of emotion to a beautiful but tragic end, with tracks expressing the grief behind loss of love, when two people are parted from each other forever.
The album features inspiration taken from various forms of art, the classic Romantic composers (Rachmaninoff , Puccini) film composers, things he’s seen, places he’s gone, and of course personal experience. It offers a listening experience full to the brim of depth, meaning and stunning musicality.
I think it was the third listen to the album that made me reflect on the power of human emotion and love, how can we possibly feel so much, and with such depth? This debut disc is huge testament to Luke’s maturity and understanding of emotion, in composition and in playing ability – and he’s only just getting started. A bright, sparkling future for this chap!
Here’s our chat:
Hi Luke, really thrilled to have you on Meander! How are you?
Thank you, I’m delighted to be featured. I’m having a great time – I remind myself each day that I’m so lucky to be doing something I love. So few people get to do that. I’m just heading back to Oxford for the summer term, which should keep me very busy for the next few weeks!
You’re a composer and a pianist, what would you first and foremost consider yourself?
A composer. Every composer needs some medium to express their ideas, and the piano has always been mine. The piano feels like an extension of me. Any idea that comes to mind, I will play through on the piano before doing anything else.
Where did you receive your musical training? Have you been playing the piano from childhood?
I’ve been playing for a long time – since the age of three, although I wasn’t allowed to have lessons until I was five as I was rather small and my arms could barely reach the piano! I had a wonderful music teacher who I badgered every single day non stop until she gave me lessons. I had a string of wonderful piano teachers, the last of whom was the concert pianist Warren Mailley-Smith. He’s always been tremendously supportive.
Much of your music is characterised by the late romantic style of playing, where did your love for this particular style stem from?
Like anything, I think it comes from experiencing different styles of music and discovering how they affect you. I found that there was something about the late Romantic style that really had a profound effect on me – harmonically in particular. I saw Tosca when I was very young and it sparked an interest both in opera and the late Romantic style as a whole.
You compose for a number of different things, personal commissions, to sacred events and for film and television – what projects do you enjoy working on the most and why?
I love anything with singers, and I love music that tells a story. Increasingly I enjoy writing more secular music as I find it better allows me to embrace my natural music style. That said, Christmas is always a fun time for sacred stuff – last year I composed a very uplifting carol for SATB for a large London choir, which was really tremendous fun.
Your debut album 7 and a Half Visions of Love is absolutely stunning. How did the creation process start? Did you tinkle about with a motif in yourmind or take inspiration from a particular piece?
Thank you, I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! I rarely compose at the piano. I started with really a lot of ideas in my head – for every day I thought about this album I found I had another ten ideas. I think a lot of the creation process was actually filtering down the multitude of ideas and piecing them all together in a way that made sense. It’s impossible not to take inspiration, especially when you’re young, and both Puccini and Rachmaninoff have been great inspirations for me. If I were to name one piece, I think the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut probably had a big impact – I must have listened to that piece a thousand times!
As a listener, I grew incredibly emotional as the album developed. Following the journey of the various stages of love – how did you manage to capture such raw emotion and translate it into music?
I’m delighted to hear that. To me there is no right or wrong way of capturing emotion – it’s something every composer tries to do, and each will have a different idea of how to do it. You have to write in a way that means something to you, and I’m lucky that what appeals to me and what affects me musically is often in line with what will appeal to a broad range of future listeners. My music is in no way elite or specialist, and will speak very directly to the emotions of everyone.
There’s often a perception that classical music requires a trained ear in order to appreciate it, when in fact this is often not the case – particularly when it comes to romantic music, and particularly not here. The very words ‘classical music’ can be so plagued by this dogma that I’m almost reluctant to use the label on my music – it’s seems unfair as this album certainly has popular appeal.
Were tracks of this album based upon personal reflection?
The entire album, in fact, is inspired by my experiences over the past two years. I took a year to focus on composition before beginning my time at Oxford University last year. However, midway through, I met a wonderful girl in Covent Garden who lived in Rome, and my year of composing became somewhat sidelined by the wonderful love story that ensued. Nearly two years on, this album tells that beautiful story. You could say I’m making up for all the pieces I didn’t get round to writing a year ago when I was whisked off to Rome!
Well that’s just quite beautiful! Whilst it’s clear to hear that this album features huge amounts of Romanticism qualities, you can also clearly detect modern skill. How do you take modern technique and apply it to the Romantic style?
It’s certainly not a conscious effort. Neither is it a conscious effort to hark back to romanticism – it’s just what feels natural and expressive to me. Rather than harking back, I feel that I’m picking up where romanticism left off. Music went in many different directions in the first half of the 20th century, not all of them good. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m going back to a real musical high point and working from there. That’s not to say that the 20th century didn’t produce some fabulous new music – of course it did. I just feel that romanticism is far from dead and so much more can be made of it today.
Are there certain composers that you took big inspiration from through the creation stages? I imagine you took inspiration from a number of film composers as well as classical?
Film music is terrific – it’s perhaps the most exciting medium for musical expression around today. Puccini was a master of musical expression, and if he’d lived a little longer there is no doubt he would have got into film music. It’s such a terrific platform and allows some great music to reach more people than ever before. As far as inspiration, I love Schubert – his music is so exquisite. And Rachmaninoff – much like great a great film score, his music can transport you to the farthest corners of the earth, and of course as a pianist Rachmaninoff has an extra appeal in that so much of it you can play! That said, I’ve spent months of my life playing through Puccini and Wagner’s operas in vocal scores… just playing through the Liebestod from the end of Tristan and Isolde, even without a singer, brings tears to the eyes.
What else influences you as a composer and musician? Art and Culture? Travel?
I love the visual element to music as well as the emotive one, so both art and travel are very important. Rachmaninoff composed one of his most dramatic pieces based on a painting entitled ‘The Isle of the Dead’, and the vision of this place (a dark and gloomy island in the middle of the ocean) in the music is profound. Every place and every image can in some way be captured musically, and working out how to do it is a real joy. I suspect this is where my love of both opera and film music stems from, on top of the emotional element involved. Music that depicts and enhances both location and visuals, and deep human emotion seems like such a complete package.
What’s your personal favourite piece from 7 and a Half Visions of Love and why?
I like the fourth track ‘Till Death Do Us Part’. I think that as a single piece it has a very complete journey from start to finish, as well as some of the most lyrical and longing melodic phrases in the album.
What’s coming up for you over the next year? Do you plan to give live performances of your album?
I’m quite busy at Oxford for the next few weeks, but after that I will be focusing on concerts. I’ll be doing a concert showcasing the album in London in the summer – it will be something really special and unique, and definitely more than your ordinary piano recital, so definitely one to look out for. I’ll keep you posted!
Thanks so much for chatting on Meander, we wish you huge success with all your future ventures!