With Escape (music for a ballet), composer/pianist Stefano Guzzetti completes the hat trick of having three releases reviewed at ACL in one year, a rarity for our site. His music continues to be engaging, and the handmade packaging from Stella Recordings continues to entice.
Once again, Guzzetti has gathered a stellar team of players, this time including string trio, bass and flute. But here his music is composed for a (literally) higher cause ~ an aerial dance performance by London’s LCP Dance Theatre.
Before we go any further, let’s take a sneak peek at the performance.
The movements are fluid, images of air superimposed with those of water. The performers flow with the music, riding its currents like wind or wave. Together, it’s a perfect fit. The occasional percussion only adds to the sense that everything is in control. One can dance to “Leaving” on the ground; or one can dance in the sky. On paper, the aerial act sounds dangerous; in person, the thrill comes from the beauty, not the height.
But of course there are other tempos, and other ways to dance. The album soon slows, growing more romantic in its center. Without percussion, the ensemble swoons and sways, ever in control. The heartbeat thump of “Hope” is visceral in nature, a reminder of the bodies involved; the bell tones of “Understars” add a hint of holiness. One begins to think of the words “height” and “escape” in spiritual terms, the aerial aspect a metaphor for yearnings and imaginings. Through it all, Guzzetti’s tones comfort and inspire, as if to say, set your minds on higher things.
After such contemplations, the album returns to the dramatic heights of the opener. “Descent” offers a late highlight, the title seemingly ironic. The strings seem to mourn, as if falling short of some distant shore. Yet a happy ending is never in doubt. Already the presence of beauty has turned mourning into gladness. By “Acceptance”, the composer, the listeners, and (we suspect) the dancers have made their peace. The final notes offer closure. Even if the escape is only temporary, the respite remains a reason for thanksgiving. (Richard Allen)