Gianluca Piacenza has nothing to hide.
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.