Bruno Sanfilippo: The Poet
1631 Recordings pitches Bruno Sanfilippo's The Poet as his “finest work to date,” which, though it might appear to be nothing more than the usual hyperbole by a record label, might very well be close to the truth. At the very least, one could say that The Poet is right up there with Sanfilippo's finest releases.
Strings are the first sounds heard on the forty-minute recording, a not insignificant detail in emphasizing that Sanfilippo's interest centers primarily on the music, not his own piano playing. It appears, too, of course, but with an elegant restraint that complements the strings rather than vies with them for attention. Sequenced first, “The Poet” inaugurates the recording on an emotionally charged note, the music filled with longing and sadness, after which “Before Nightfall” perpetuates the opener's elegiac tone with a melancholy lullaby that's again wondrously realized in an understated piano-and-strings arrangement. Even at this early stage, it's clear that Sanfilippo is intent on using technique in the service of emotional effect; he's certainly capable of impressing the listener with all manner of pianistic flourishes, but in a representative setting such as “The Legend of the Sailor” he keeps it simple by concentrating on wistful, single-note melodies and chords.
Moods of varying kinds are featured on the recording. The haunting “Silk Offering” exudes mystery in the tentative wisps of melody that slowly usher forth from the piano and strings. The foreboding hinted at in “Silk Offering” moves more audibly to the forefront during “An Omen,” interesting also for being performed by strings alone, sometimes to nightmarish effect. The album's most dramatic change-up occurs in “Iron Horse” when Sanfilippo plays (I'm guessing) the piano's inner strings to generate an almost gamelan-inflected meditation that wouldn't sound out of place emanating from a Japanese temple. In a few cases (e.g., “The Book Without Words” and the brief “Dead's Hope”), he opts for a more elaborate, orchestral presentation that, while it does add extra colour to the recording, is less effective when heard alongside the quieter settings, more powerful despite their lower decibel level.Sanfilippo's music might warrant the minimalism label with respect to its uncluttered presentation, but it's hardly minimal in its emotional effect. His gift for imbuing chamber classical settings with deep feeling is perhaps his greatest one; with that in mind, it would be hard to think of anyone better qualified to compose the film soundtrack for a literary adaptation than Sanfilippo.