Stefano Guzzetti: Leaf
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As exquisite as Stefano Guzzetti's last release, 2015's Ensemble (Stella Recordings), is, Leaf might be even more so; it certainly captures the pianist-composer's music having reached an extremely high level of refinement. The approach on Leaf, which he wrote and produced over a five-month stretch in early 2014, isn't radically different from that taken on the earlier collection: the pianist, also credited with glockenspiel, field recordings, and sine waves, is accompanied by a string trio—violinist Simone Soro, violist Francesco Pilia, and cellist Gianluca Pischedda—plus clarinetist Lorenzo Baldoni and double bassist Sebastiano Dessanay on thirteen concise settings strong on appeal.

As direct as the music is the concept underpinning the work, the idea that the leaves on the trees, being so omnipresent and ubiquitous, tend to recede from view yet when studied up close mesmerize with intricate webs of detail. The not-so-subtle point is that attention is key, and mindfulness and humility, too. Of course, no pondering of such ideas is necessary for the music to be enjoyed; Guzzetti's sensual soundworld offers no shortage of pleasure to the listener hungry for accessible chamber classical music.

Appropriately the album begins with the composer's elegiac piano heard against a backdrop of bird chatter, prompting one to visualize a leafy nature setting. On a typical track, Guzzetti's piano acts as the melodic nucleus around which the other instruments cluster, whether it be strings, clarinet, or glockenspiel. “Psalm in A minor” effectively highlights his estimable talents as an arranger in the way it offsets the strings with the contrasting timbres of the clarinet and double bass. “Mother,” on the other hand, stands out for largely restricting its plaintive material to strings, piano reduced to accents only. While there's nothing to indicate it's intended as such, “All Our Days” could easily pass for a homage by the composer to Yann Tiersen, so emblematic are its chiming piano patterns of the latter's style.

Being so melodically strong, Guzzetti's music holds up perfectly well without embellishment; consequently, the modest number of instrumental voices featured in these chamber arrangements is all that's required to convey the essence of his compositional style, and though electronic treatments surface in a couple of places (e.g., “Silently Leaving,” with its pronounced reverberation effects), the album rarely strays from its acoustic presentation. Abundantly melodic and generally sweetly melancholic in temperament, Guzzetti's luscious music envelops the listener in folds of elegance on this consistently satisfying forty-seven-minute outing.

April 2016