ARIA-nominated, multi-award-wining Australian pianist Nat Bartsch has always written music with the intention to comfort and soothe. ‘It started with the very first composition I wrote, for a friend undergoing cancer treatment. It continued with my gentle jazz ballads for Nat Bartsch Trio, and further evolved, with renewed purpose, in my Forever albums: lullabies that support people in all stages of life.‘
Her new album, Hope
, took what she calls ‘a slight detour’ as she responded to the unexpected challenges of 2020. ‘In January, the Black Summer bushfires ravaged Australia. I wrote For the Koalas, The End of the Decade and Searching for the Map with the smell of smoke in my house from fires hundreds of kilometres away, feeling immense frustration at our inaction on climate change. Then, just a few weeks later, Fight Not Flight was sketched as I realised the Covid-19 pandemic was upon us.‘
In the long months of lockdown that followed, Bartsch found herself yearning for ‘forward momentum’: writing driving rhythms, faster tempos, percussive piano flourishes as the tracks For Now, Brightness in the Hills and her first string quartet, Over the River, came to life. Then, as Melbourne’s second lockdown slowly lifted, her music returned to the slow and patient, with Emerging.
My album’s title is not just those four letters,‘ she explains. ‘It’s ‘hope’ as an abbreviation of both hopefulness and hopelessness, and this music explores the space between.