We like short stories. We also like pianos, the color blue, origami vessels, and the fact that Stefano Guzzetti has dedicated this album to his sister Francesca, “a tiny paper ship.” Over the past half decade, the artist has issued a series of endearing, personal albums, such as last year’s solo piano set, Alone. Many have come with distinctive packaging; the early editions of Volume Two included a 40-page score book. But great presentation is empty without great music, which is why it’s such a delight to encounter yet another positive, engaging set from the Italian composer.
As is clear from the title, there was a Volume One, a Valentine’s Day release on Home Normal four years back, perhaps coincidentally titled At Home. Volume Two not only continues to demonstrate his abilities, but connects the music to the literary world rather than the soundtrack world, a development we heartily support. While instrumental music is often associated with film scores, the genre is even better suited to provide the soundtrack to a book. Guzzetti further suggests that these pieces are short stories in themselves and can in fact be read, note by note. But what are they about?
Thanks to titles present and past, one can glean a cluster of positive associations: community, family, love, hope, nature, cycles. While many albums include at least one sadder piece, the endings lead to calm closure, and even joy. On this album, the disquiet of “Tecla (II)”s discordant notes gives way to clearing skies. Even though these pieces are constructed as short stories (in contrast to the novels of prior works), they still follow a discernible arc.
“Hands” is a caring piece, reflecting not only the hands that play the notes, but helping hands, hands of greeting, hands of comfort, hands that hold other hands, hands that wave hello and goodbye ~ the upper notes like plaintive, open hands, the lower like hands filled with warmth. “Welcome” is a long preparation for company, culminating in a soft reunion. And then there is the tenderness of “Paper Ship,” exuding an encouraging, heartfelt, familial love.
Volume Two‘s most melancholic track, “Norida” (which sounds like the Japanese word for “tears”) arrives two-thirds of the way in, but is followed by a happy triptych, the most memorable of which is “Be My Shelter.” By the end, it seems that Guzzetti has not only found shelter, but has become one. While finishing the final chapter, we’re already anticipating the next book. (Richard Allen)