Dear music lover, this is my first full-length solo piano album (only in track 4 “Angels” I enriched the piano with a subtle but very expressive string quartet arrangement): it’s only me at night and my beloved Petrof upright (modified with a special “double felt” to soften it even more), an instrument characterized by a warm and mellow timbre, intimate and emotional, cinematic and atmospheric with a very melodic voice and deep but round basses.
As I love imperfections you will not find here the sterile and lifeless piano sound of so many modern digital recordings, but a full world of sounds and noises, wood and mechanical interactions, pedal creaks and fingers tapping the keys, breathes, slightly detuned notes, all captured with pristine analogue gear, printed to tape and then converted to digital as the last step. Every track started as an improvisation and was then re-constructed after the recording to become a structured new piece of music that didn’t exist before. I hope you’ll take the path of listening to the album as a whole, from the beginning to the end, since there is a sort of circularity and unity thanks to recurring musical patterns and intervals, and also a dramatic development that culminates into the last track “Moonlight Walk”, written to celebrate Piano Day and released as a single on March 29th, 2017 (and included in Nils Frahm’s official Piano Day playlist). Take some time for yourself, dim your lights, close your eyes and immerse in this recording: after all, this is a journey into my heart and my deepest emotions!
It’s strange. During the day, I usually throw a massive amount of music into my WinAmp (yes, I’m old school), click the shuffle-button and press play. Then, all different kinds of music start playing, from ambient over jazz and post rock to techno, black metal and drum & bass.
However, sometimes I promptly shut WinAmp down, only because somewhere in this building or the one next door, somebody is playing the piano. I don’t know who it is. I mostly don’t know what he or she plays but all sounds must fade away when that instrument resonates through the walls.
It’s almost miraculous how such a big and imposing instrument can express so much solitude. The gentle sound of the hammers on the strings can move almost any person to tears. And that certainly counts for the music Gianluca Piacenza creates. I reviewed his previous record, ‘Dream’ back in 2015 (read (http://www.merchantsofair.com/reviews/gianluca-piacenza-dream) – and ignore the annoying ad, we don’t do that anymore). Now he returns with ‘The Road To Home’, a ten tracks piano album that is too beautiful to ignore.
The album opens with the gloomy track ‘Dark Light’ which immediately sets the tone. The music follows the same path as on ‘Dream’, being slow, lingering pieces of solo piano. A bit romantic, a bit nostalgic and a bit emotional but mostly soothing and dreamy. From then on, the album calmy moves forward, highlighting in the mesmerizing piano-ambient piece ‘Angels’, and obviously a few times more after that.
I’m not sure if there is anything else to say about this album. It’s simply filled with beautiful music, nothing more, nothing less. If you are a fan of the piano and people who have great affinity with that instrument, there is no need to doubt. If you like music by people like Arnalds, Frahm, Schubert and Beethoven, here are some new breathtaking melodies to accompany you through the upcoming spring evenings.
Gianluca Piacenza is an artist who sees beauty in imperfections. His work on this project presents listeners with a uniquely genuine, unprocessed version of his creative expression, complete with the very sound of his fingers hitting the keys, and finished off in the most natural, untainted fashion. The journey that is The Road To Home begins with Dark Light, a piece spanning beyond the nine minute mark, surrounding you entirely in the seemingly free-flowing energy of the artist and his emotional state. There is at first a certain sense of rhythm and familiarity that is maintained within, though later on this evolves into new realms, taking on new emotions, moving from the peaceful and energized to the much more dreamlike and perhaps unreal feeling. It’s an entrancing progression and marks the start of a powerful and deeply human exploration of music through a single instrument.
Momentum offers up a slightly more spacious soundscape, the notes appear tentatively and the experience is less than a minute long, which really provokes a level of consideration in contrast with what preceded it, and with the concept of momentum in itself. A Unified Voice follows, mellow and delicate again, though less spacious feeling – there’s more of a smooth connection between notes here, as well as something of a leaning back and forth between the optimistic and the slightly melancholy (though the latter is brief)…
The themes of loneliness and sadness are often recurring in neo-classical music, evoking strong emotions and memories. They can become so intimate and sincere that the listeners can put themselves into the shows of the artist and share such feelings.
In his first full-length album, composer and pianist Gianluca Piacenza decided to keep it minimal. In “The Road To Home” you will only find the beautiful sound of his custom Petrof upright piano. To complement the warm and intimate timbre of the piano recordings, Gianluca decided also to make prominent all the imperfections, such as pedal creaks, slightly detuned hits, breaths and mechanical sounds of the piano. Every track started off as improvisation and then transformed into a cohesive musical journey.
All recorded late at night, “this is a journey into my heart and my deepest emotions.. to capture the magic of loneliness.”
Gianluca Piacenza has constructed an absolutely breathtaking piece of modern classical music with “Childlike Innocence” — the title really says it all. It evokes a level of wistful nostalgia and wonder for the listener, while sporadic bursts of raw emotion struggle to boil to the surface throughout. It takes you on a journey through the past, present, and future, and that is truly beautiful.
At least not on his exquisite new disc The Road to Home. Improvised and then honed for piano – and on one piece a softly recorded string quartet – the Italian pianist and composer has delivered a resonant, expansive collection of works that feel unusually intimate.
Piacenza performs on a Petrof upright, an instrument known for its warm and rich sound. He added “a special ‘double felt’” to soften it further.
That’s not all. In his album notes, Piacenza describes recording “a full world of sounds and noises, wood and mechanical interactions, pedal creaks and fingers tapping the keys, breathes, slightly detuned notes, all captured with pristine analogue gear, printed to tape and then converted to digital as the last step.”
As a result, we hear the instrument as much as the performer. Besides adding a gentle, irregular kind of percussion to the mix, these “imperfections” as he calls them draw us closer to the performance in a manner similar to the one achieved by Benjamin Finger on his lovely Ghost Figures.
But this is more than simply an exercise in recording techniques. Just as Finger’s delivery stirred a sense of brave modernity, Piacenza’s is a study of homespun nostalgia.
Every one of these pieces, from the 59-second “Momentum” to the 12½-minute “Shades of My Life,” is hauntingly beautiful. Had he recorded them more conventionally, and perhaps targeted a more mainstream classical music audience, we would be every bit as enthusiastic about these compositions.
The fact that he’s chosen such a unique approach only adds to the album’s charm. Hard to believe this is his first full-length solo-piano recording.
Gianluca Piacenza is een klassiek geschoolde pianist en componist. Zijn belangstelling gaat niet alleen uit naar oude meesters als Bach en Scarlatti, maar ook naar moderne en meer experimentele componisten als Pärt, Ligeti en Cage. Daarnaast is de Italiaan beïnvloed door de elektronica/ambient-scene, wat goed te horen is op zijn eerste album Dream, verschenen in 2015. Daarop wordt aan het gevoelvolle pianospel van Piacenza live-elektronica gekoppeld.
Drie jaar later is het tijd voor de opvolger, waarop de pianist de elektronica heeft losgelaten. In feite is The Road to Home de eerste echte solopiano-cd van Piacenza, al wordt zijn spel op één stuk begeleid door strijkers. Het is een zéér persoonlijk album geworden. “This is a journey into my heart and my deepest emotions”, aldus de muzikant, en wie de muziek tot zich neemt weet dat daarvan geen woord gelogen is.
The Road to Home is ’s nachts opgenomen om de magie van eenzaamheid te vangen. Hoewel het album bestaat uit elf stukken, in lengte variërend van een minuut tot ruim twaalf minuten, laat het zich het beste integraal beluisteren. Op die manier werkt de eenzaamheid die de muziek daadwerkelijk uitstraalt het best op je in. Piacenza slaagt erin om die sfeer perfect tot uitdrukking te brengen in op klassiek en ambient gestoelde composities met een grote emotionele impact.
Piacenza speelt niet op een vleugel, maar op een Petrof, een rechtopstaande piano die bekendstaat om zijn warme en rijke geluid, intiem en emotievol. Al spelend laat de pianist je toe tot zijn diepste zielenroerselen. Hoewel de muziek volledig instrumentaal is, raakt die je recht in het hart. Als luisteraar ben je dichtbij. Héél dichtbij. Beluistering van het album zou je zelfs kunnen doen terugdeinzen, zo intiem is de sfeer.
Dat komt onder meer omdat Piacenza zijn muziek zo heeft opgenomen, dat iedere bedoelde en onbedoelde bijklank van het instrument te horen is. Dat betekent dat je iedere aanslag van de pianist kunt horen, maar ook het mechanisme van de piano en het kraken van de pedalen. Dat maakt dat iedere gespeelde noot, ook als die opgaat in een melodie of onderdeel uitmaakt van een akkoord, als van het grootste belang en persoonlijk overkomt. Onvolkomenheden zijn niet eruit gefilterd, maar zijn een essentieel onderdeel van de muziek.
De eenzaamheid van de muziek betreft geen desolaatheid. The Road to Home gaat niet over wanhoop, maar ziet meer op een soort bitterzoete melancholie, een licht sombere stemming waarin je heerlijk kunt zwelgen. Piacenza voorkomt dat zijn composities zwaar op de hand worden door melodieën te spelen die ondanks de melancholische stemming ook iets flonkerends hebben, een schittering die een hoopvolle belofte in zich draagt.
De pianist houdt zijn muziek klein en sober. Dat geldt zelfs voor het arrangement voor strijkkwartet dat is te horen in ‘Angels’: subtiel en op beeldende wijze worden de strijkersklanken aangebracht als ondergrond voor het emotievolle pianospel.
Meer dan een uur lang houdt Piacenza je in zijn greep, op fijnzinnige en intimistische wijze. Door de lengte van het album heeft de muziek de tijd om diep op de luisteraar in te werken. The Road to Home is een goudeerlijk, ongepolijst en gevoelig album dat op zeer directe wijze op de emoties speelt. Pure muziek van grote schoonheid.
C’est tard la nuit, lorsque les âmes dorment, que L’italien Gianluca Piacenza a composé The Road To Home installé derrière son piano Petrof, puisant dans les forces nocturnes une certaine forme de sérénité mélancolique.
The Road To Home est un voyage dans des profondeurs émotives, où l’on entend et ressent le bruit des touches descendre et monter, les marteaux frapper les cordes de son instrument. Le pianiste ne cache rien de son intériorité et de son ressenti, mise à nu d’un artiste dans tous ses états, se livrant tel quel à coups de mélodies néo-classiques aux narrations flottantes.
C’est un album hors du temps que nous offre Gianluca Piacenza, délivré de toute forme de contrainte, aux dérives lentes sur terrains oniriques, à l’image du sublime Angels et ses cordes aériennes. On pourrait presque parler d’ambient, de par ses atmosphères papillonnantes posées sur des silences aux échos charnels. Un opus au minimalisme paisible, empreint d’intimité évocatrice et de beauté nocturne. Très fortement recommandé.
Già il debutto “Dream” (2015) aveva segnalato la composita attitudine pianistica di Gianluca Piacenza, non circoscritta al semplice minimalismo, ma tale da elevare la semplicità delle note scandite dal suo strumento ad artefice di affascinanti spazi sonori ed emozionali. Tale attitudine è significativamente amplificata in “The Road To Home”, nel corso delle cui undici tracce l’artista emiliano marca l’accento sugli aspetti intimistici e cinematici delle proprie composizioni, a cominciare dal contesto notturno nel quale i compassati flussi di note sono stati catturati, attraverso semplici dispositivi analogici.
Con la sola eccezione dell’arrangiamento per quartetto d’archi di “Angels”, il pianoforte è protagonista assoluto del lavoro; si tratta però di un protagonista discreto, che in sordina dispensa ricami melodici aggraziati e riflessivi, che in particolare nei tre brani di lunga durata (“Dark Light”, “Shades Of My Life” e “Unsaid Truth”, tutti oltre i nove minuti), trovano l’ampiezza necessaria per dispiegare la pacata introspezione della relazione tra artista e strumento.
Nei tre anni trascorsi da “Dream”, Gianluca Piacenza sembra dunque aver ulteriormente affinato la propria sensibilità di approccio al neoclassicismo pianistico, interpretato secondo modalità ben distanti dal diffuso manierismo, anzi discendenti da una rimarchevole personalità nel dosare filigrane armoniche e ovattate sospensioni in punta di dita.
The Road To Home is the first full-length solo piano album from Italian pianist/composer/sound designer Gianluca Piacenza. A classically-trained pianist from a very young age, Piacenza has been the winner and finalist in national and international competitions and appears in concerts as both a soloist and a chamber musician. Influenced by the traditions of classical music as well as the electronic/ambient genre, Piacenza began working on his first album, Dream, in 2014. On that album, he experimented with the interaction of acoustic piano and live electronics. Piacenza describes his sonic world as “a blend of acoustic textures, recorded and processed live in many different ways, and electronic soundscapes, created manipulating natural sounds and programming synthesizers and samplers.” He has released several singles in addition to his two albums.
I have reviewed a number of albums recently where the piano strings have been muted in one way or another, allowing for all of the sounds of the piano’s internal workings to be heard in addition to the “usual” sound of the hammers and strings. I have also reviewed several albums that were recorded on old pianos that had fallen into disrepair, capturing the unique sounds of those instruments. These recordings can be hauntingly beautiful, but I didn’t really think about this being a possible reaction to the more “sterile” sound of digital pianos until I read Piacenza’s description of this album. He goes on to say: “it’s only me at night and my beloved Petrof upright (modified with a special ‘double felt’ to soften it even more).” Each of the eleven pieces was recorded as an improvisation and then reconstructed and restructured. Piacenza suggests that the album be listened to as a whole “since there is a sort of circularity and unity thanks to recurring musical patterns and intervals, and also a dramatic development that culminates into the last track ‘Moonlight Walk,’ written to celebrate Piano Day.” I agree – this is not an album for casual listening or background music, and to fully appreciate the beauty and subtlety of the music, you need to really listen to it.
The Road To Home begins with “Dark Light,” a delicate yet mysterious piece that serves as a beautiful introduction to Piacenza’s approach to this album. At a bit more than nine minutes, it very effectively sets a quiet, peaceful tone that is anything but “sterile.” In contrast, “Momentum” is a mere 59 seconds, but is just as evocative in its brevity. “Angels” is the only track with any additional instrumentation. Piacenza added a subtle but very expressive string quartet that brings an atmospheric and ethereal quality to the music. My favorite track on the album is “Shades of My Life,” a wonderful exploration that extends out to 12 1/2 minutes. Even with the strings muted, the intensity and passion of this piece are beautifully expressed. Love it! “Conversation With Myself” is especially quiet and introspective, expressing gentle contentment and thoughtfulness. In “Far Away,” Piacenza makes very effective use of the damper pedal to create depth and a dreamy atmosphere. “Unsaid Truth” goes much darker and even more intimate as Piacenza opens his heart at the piano.
The Road To Home is definitely not a mainstream solo piano album, but if you are interested in a more experimental approach to this instrument and the creation of music for it, you really should check this one out! It’s very beautiful, but very subtle.