Acclaimed composer and maestro Rui Massena is one of the most successful artists of the actual Portuguese music scene right now – and confirms his unique status the same with his new and outstanding album. “III”, now released on Universal’s Deutsche Grammophon.
There are very few classical musicians that become bona fide stars in popular music. Rui Massena is one of those exceptions. As he sees it, there really are no differences between styles and genres – only music, a harmony of different attitudes, cultures and languages.
A life-long pioneer and defender of classical music and a maestro and pianist by training, Mr. Massena has performed in 14 countries with 30 orchestras, has conducted for José Carreras, Ute Lemper, or Wim Mertens, and was main guest conductor of the Rome Symphony Orchestra for three seasons. He has also received a number of distinctions, both as maestro (like the Cultural Merit Medals from the Brazilian Arts and Sciences Academy) and as a TV personality (his TV series “Música Maestro” was shortlisted for the Rose d’Or awards).
But this wasn’t enough his multi-faceted talent, and Mr. Massena knew his compositions required other settings, other backgrounds. With his first album, “Solo”, in 2015, recorded entirely on solo piano, his remarkable talent as a melodist was revealed to the world. Music that he himself describes as “tranquil, almost therapeutic”, strongly based on emotion. In 2016, he released “Ensemble”, partly recorded with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. Inspired by the world-renowned village of Sintra, where the record was composed and partly recorded, “Ensemble” shot to #1 in the Portuguese charts. Its release was followed by two totally different tours: one, with a string section described as the Rui Massena Ensemble, closer to the orchestral sound of that album.
This was followed by a tour with the five-piece Rui Massena Band, a way to experiment live with electronic instruments and add new layers to his compositions, that served as the “testing ground” for new approaches. All these experiences come together in the new album. “III” is described by Mr. Massena as a “synthesis” of his career so far and “a new step forward”, recorded in two stages. In Berlin, Mr. Massena recorded all of the piano parts with the Grammy winner producer and engineer Tobias Lehman, with a special attention to the acoustics of the room and of the instrument – the same Steinway piano often used by the Berlin Philharmonic. In Oporto, Mr. Massena recorded with his stage band, looking for what he calls a “balance” between his many interests. “I tried to add some contemporary electronics to my classical training, and include a progressive, fusion process on the emotions of my previous albums. It was all about discovering new sounds and extending my language.”
“III” is, however, still unmistakably Rui Massena. “It’s a huge step forward for me as a composer. It is still my music; but it adds something new, shows me new paths I can take. In that process I found where I wanted to go.” “III” was mastered in New York by Grammy-winning engineer Joe Laporta and features seven new instrumental pieces. The album was released in Portugal by Universal on the Deutsche Grammophon label in November 2018. A tour is already planned for 2019 coinciding with the international release of “III” via Deutsche Grammophon.