Stefano Guzzetti's music is heavily melodic, regardless of whether it's presented in the form of solo piano arrangements or as chamber works. Exquisite examples of the former are featured on the Sardinian composer's 2014 Home Normal release At Home: Piano Book (Volume One), while no less than seventeen samplings of the latter make up Ensemble. Issued on his own Stella Recordings in a hand-made edition of 250 copies, the fifty-seven-minute recording is a studio version of the concert set the pianist performs with the other members of his ensemble, violinist Simone Soro, violist Giulia Dessy, and cellist Gianluca Pischedda.
It's impossible to listen to Ensemble without hearing echoes of Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, and Yann Tiersen in Guzzetti's compositions, though that's hardly a crippling indictment of the album. It would be difficult to imagine any living, classically trained composer who writes original works and soundtracks to not have been exposed to the work of such figures and influenced by them. The Glass presence is audible in the opening seconds of “Scusa,” but once the detail's registered the music carries the listener away, especially when Guzzetti's piano is joined by the lyrical expressiveness of his string partners. “All Our Days” is so reminiscent of Tiersen's style it could pass for a composition by the Amelie soundtrack composer, though again the material is so entrancing one quickly engages directly with the music rather than fixating on issues of influence. Ultimately it's Guzzetti's voice that remains when this melodious collection reaches its end.
Aside from it being a collection rich in mood, Ensemble is also appealing for its concision. None of the pieces pushes past the five-minute mark, and the shortest checks in at a minute-and-a-half. Yet the pieces never feel truncated; instead, one comes away impressed by Guzzetti's ability to convey the essence of each composition with dispatch. Though his piano is the core instrument, the strings significantly deepen the music's emotional impact (Soro's playing considerably elevates “Loin,” for example), and as one would expect from a recording featuring so many compositions, the emotional terrain covered is extensive, with some settings wistful and melancholy and others breezy, uplifting, and light-hearted. The recording reaches a particularly passionate height within “Pluvieux,” but it's hardly the only moment of its kind on the recording, and pretty miniatures such as “You and the Stars” and “Endless Summer” are in plentiful supply. All of the compositions are by Guzzetti with one exception, a graceful cover version of Manuel de Falla's “Nana” (from Seven Popular Songs).
Admittedly, Guzzetti is no Schoenberg-like revolutionary—there's little in Guzzetti's romantic composing style that aspires to advance the classical genre in radical new manner—but material of such rich harmonious and melodic quality requires little argument in its defence than the music itself.