Two years ago, Fabrizio Paterlini asked his friends to describe their impressions of the word melancholy. Their responses inspired him to write the track, “If music were melancholy”. But it didn’t end there. In his free time, he wrote piano miniatures and posted them on his Soundcloud page. After 250,000 hits, he knew he was onto something. Now these tiny tracks are collected in the form of an album (on white vinyl!). A follow-up to the wintry Now (which was selected as one of our Best Winter Albums of 2013), The Art of the Piano encapsulates a sense of forlorn nature, stillness in the midst of white, peace in the middle of a swirling world. It’s a perfect panacea to wintry woes.
Even before playing these tracks, one intuits the theme. With titles such as “Empty room”, “Conversation with myself” and “Broken”, the album seems to address seasonal affective disorder with an empathetic ear. Yet while The Art of the Piano may be melancholic, it’s not sad. A certain dignity can be found in these grooves, the dignity of discovering beauty when color has faded all around. It’s a sweet irony that the vinyl is white, while the cover includes brighter hues, like a cardinal seen in snow. The set also includes one summer track (“Midsummer tiny song”), and concludes with the relatively upbeat “Wind Song”, the last piece to be recorded. In this piece, Paterlini seems to be saying, hold on, the brighter days are coming. The song ends in mid-thought, challenging listeners to respond by returning to melancholy, or venturing forth in hope.
One advantage of this album is that it allows us to hear the artist unadorned. As much as we love additional orchestration, the solo piano provides nowhere to hide, and the performance seems more intimate as a result. There is, as the title implies, an art to the piano ~ it’s not enough to play the right notes in the right sequence. Paterlini is a tender performer, comfortable with silences, capable of turning a tender phrase with the high keys while sublimating the low. This artist’s love for the instrument, combined with the fact that these pieces were initially meant as gifts, makes the listening experience feel personal, rather than commercial. The white vinyl is the added touch that bridges the gap between performer and listener. (Richard Allen)