Markus Burger : The Vienna Sessions Review

Markus-Burger-cdMarkus Burger is a German-born concert pianist, composer, and educator based in Los Angeles, California. Burger is a full-time music professor at Fullerton College and a lecturer for the graduate jazz piano and composition program at San Diego State University. In August 2019, Burger spent two afternoons in Vienna, the music capital of Europe, recording in the Bösendorfer piano showroom, courtesy of Ferdinand Bräu. Burger is releasing The Vienna Sessions, a sixteen-track album from the session via Challenge Records. Burger says, “I have been a fan of Bösendorfer pianos since studying at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany, where I fell in love with the sound of this amazing instrument.” In December 2021, Burger was inducted into the family of Bösendorfer pianists by Artist Manager Bräu.

“Daybreak” is the opening sounds of the project and serves as a beautiful transition into Burger’s world of pastel harmonic colors and relaxing melodies. Burger let the music guide him, which comes across in the recording. Burger explains, “While recording, I enjoyed exploring the sound of the piano, especially in the upper register. I also chose to improvise in a minimal way to let the instrument guide me on a musical stroll. I found my time in Vienna relaxing, inspiring, and deeply spiritual. I hope you, the listener, will enjoy the music as much as I enjoyed playing it.” Soft string sounds are added to the warmly recorded acoustic piano to augment the mood and add sonic variations. Burger’s feel on the piano is dynamic, and his ideas flow seamlessly into each other.

“A Knight’s Tale” is a relaxing jazz meets classical waltz with a catchy melody and interesting harmonic surprises. Burger’s phrase entrances during his improvisation indicate a clear beginning of an idea that prevails throughout his exploration of the motif, developing through his performance, and culminating in his tapered phrase endings. These clear beginnings, developments, and endings give the song shape and enhance the music’s natural flow.

The Vienna Sessions captures sixteen impeccable performances by Burger. His music understanding and listening to where the music in the moment wanted to travel gives value and delicate balance to the project. There are plenty of arching phrasings, tricky voicings, dramatic climaxes, but always balanced by appropriately light and impish moments. Burger is a master of getting out of his own way and rendering music organically and directly. This project encapsulates a magical communication between man, instrument, time, and space.