David Lanz and Robin Spielberg, popular pianists in the contemporary mold, have new albums that reflect, in instrumental passages, aspects of life they share with their listeners. Following are reviews by Deseret News staff writers:

DAVID LANZ; "Sacred Road" (Narada Artist Series). * * * 1/2

Fans of David Lanz will be more than happy to hear that this piano master has turned out yet another exquisite collection. In a note, Lanz states his intent: "This music chronicles my Sacred Road, yet it is a journey we can all take . . . a journey inward where the travelers are transformed and discover the gift of our true being."

Hmmm. Music to contemplate the Psalms or the Tao or "The Road Less Traveled," perhaps. Meditative, introspective - and pleasant. All apply to these 14 tunes, given titles like "A Path With Heart," "The Long Goodbye" and "Circle of Friends."

For those acquainted with the pianist's past albums, the ambience here is somewhere between the pop classic "Cristofori's Dream" (1988) and the nostalgic "Return to the Heart" (1991). The songs are flowing and touching without turning maudlin. In each the music is colored lightly by strings (members of the Seattle Symphony), percussion and wind instruments such as the oboe, flute and saxophone - but never is the piano overshadowed.

Most of the tracks are moderately short as well, clocking in at around 3 minutes. Only the two-part "Prelude: The Approaching Night/Nocturne," the album's centerpiece, is longer - a grand and very pretty seven minutes.

Other standouts include the lyrical "Where the Tall Tree Grows," an evocative number called "Still Life" and "On Our Way Home," which has a palpable folk-pop underpinning. Those who liked Lanz's solo-piano version of "Before the Last Leaf Falls" on his previous album, "Beloved," will also want to hear the version here, with its expanded orchestration.

But really, all of "Sacred Road" is quintessential David Lanz - familiar, in that the songs seem to have always been with us, yet remarkably fresh.

- Ray Boren

ROBIN SPIELBERG; "Songs of the Spirit" (North Star Music). * * * 1/2

Solo piano has a way of catching the ear of anyone who passes by. Whether it be ragtime, classical or contemporary, there is no instrument that captures a listener like the ivories.

By gathering inspiration from life and its passing, Robin Spielberg manages to create unique auras with her new album, "Songs of the Spirit." Instead of lyrics and vocals, she paints musical portraits of a playful ghost ("Spirit in This House"), a Russian immigrant's voyage to a new life ("A Song for Jeannie") and matrimony ("The Promise").

Spielberg's works are all very reverent and often a little nostalgic at the same time. Her moods are revealed through thoughtful, universal arrangements.

The cycle of a broken heart is explored through "Anthem of My Heart," memories of youth are dreamily relived in "Four O'Clock Suite" and "Send Me a Letter" proves to be a requiem for friends who have left this life.

The compositions take on lives of their own as Spielberg touches her keys in works that range from simple fugues to extravagant crafts. Once the playing begins on "Songs of the Spirit," the listener is rendered spellbound.

- Scott Iwasaki

RATINGS: four stars (* * * * ), excellent; three stars (* * * ), good; two stars (* * ), fair; one star (* ), poor, with 1/2 representing a higher, intermediate grade.