Twilight arrives earlier these days, coinciding with the end of the work day. As the sun sets, the air takes on a blue tinge, reflecting the sky. Snowscapes amplify the effect, akin to a thin transparency lowered gently across the world. In 2013, Yann Novak released Blue.Hour, an ambient take on this evocative slice of light; now Milan pianist Federico Albanese provides a lightly orchestral take on the same theme. Ironically, The Blue Hour is released the same day as Peter Davidson’s critically lauded book, Last of the Light: About Twilight, which traces the history of humanity’s relationship with the blue hour. Having read an advance copy, I am happy to recommend both.
One of the book’s main points is that twilight once belonged to everyone. Artificial lights have dulled our vision of nature, while over-scheduled lives have distracted us from the sky’s subtle changes. Not so Albanese, who like Davidson is inspired to poetic prose: “There is a particular moment when opposites are very close, almost touching one another. When there is still light but not quite darkness. A world in between, where all things are uncertain, vague, floating into shade.”
Albanese’s music touches on the liminal, careful to preserve the dual sense of there/not-there. The subtle, slowly unfurling pieces are offset by swifter, brighter compositions. The low notes at the end of “Nel Buio” and “Silent Fall” indicate a deep, rich night, the inevitable end to a weighty descent. Yet in “Time Has Changed” and “And We Follow the Night,” any trepidation is replaced by playfulness. The twinkling keys of the former sound like snow, and are chased by louder, fuller ivories; the latter seems excited, as if in a hurry for the evening’s festivities to begin.
While Albanese’s instrument of choice is the piano, he also adds occasional cello and electronics, contrasting the shimmer of thick air to the sharpness of the cold. This wise choice adds depth to the set, creating a greater array of possible emotions. To some, twilight represents the sadness of the day; natural light dissolves, replaced by the incandescent. To others, twilight is a prelude to nocturnal activities and possible delight. Albanese sees both sides, yet he loves twilight for its own merits: neither an end nor a beginning, but a singular, beautiful hour. (Richard Allen)