The prolific Italian piainist Stefano Battaglia has carved out enough for two discs of music for solo piano on Pelagos, which mixes challenging percussive sounds with little islands of appealing melody.
For his latest enterprise, the prolific Stefano Battaglia (born 1965) has carved out enough for two discs of music for solo piano on Pelagos, or, to even make my metaphors more purple, mixes tufty cactii of percussive sounds with palmy oases of tunefulness.
On the first of the pair of CDs, Battaglia’s watery, wistful air reminds one somehow of Zbigniew Preisner who composed the music for much of the late, great Krzysztof Kieslowski’s films, notably Three Colours Blue. There is something Balkan or Slavic about Migralia and the Arab song, Lamma Bata Yatathaanna - whose provenance is the Moorish Al-Andalus tradition - is a wondrous thing.
Battaglia can send out flurries of notes to conjure a mood, the fingers busy fluttering with purpose across the keyboard. Otherwise, by way of complete contrast, there are pieces where he uses a percussive approach, knocking against the strings and looking for something fibrous and dark rather than liquid and mellifluous (bless him on his quest, your listener remained respectfully patient.) Perhaps the darkly sinister tapping should be seen in context. In the original notes for the (Italian) concert performance of this recording, Battaglia referred to conceptual themes on the record, writing of "songs and dances of the suffering countries of the Meditteranean and Balkan areas, " which possibly includes reference to the new wave of refugees in his native country (he was born in Milan.)
On CD 2, the Brenner Toccata seems snowbound, wrapped in a Zhivago-like fur. It’s a truly beautiful tremulous thing and indeed the Brenner of the title brings the Swiss mountain pass of that name to mind. Lamma Bata Yatathaanna - reprised with variations, from CD 1 - is stirring and beguiling while Migration Mantra has feathery yet sleek elegance and an air of plangent reverence.
Adventurous and soulful by turns, the vaguely stertorous tap-tapping which features at one point prompts the, yes, churlish thought that Battaglia got bored with melody at some point and started fooling around inside the lid. Yet, on the other hand, these tentative thrummings may well be the stuff you adore, one man's meat etc.