Hania Rani ~ On Giacometti

On Giacometti is a winter album of sorts, although an early track is titled “Spring.”  The music reflects the season and space in which it was recorded: a winter residency snuggled in the Swiss mountains, where pianist Hania Rani worked on the score to a film about Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti.  The music is suitably spacious: calm and expansive, like the view of distant peaks, a vast expanse of snow, the feeling of being alone, but not isolated.  Longtime friend and collaborator Dobrawa Czocher, whose own Dreamscapes was recently released, contributes cello to two standout tracks, including the opener “Allegra,” which sounds like friendship by a fire.

For the bulk of the album, light synthesizer is the only adornment.  Rani’s signature cascades are present, but the pace is reflective and relaxed, perhaps the result of watching patient flakes.  Rani mentions the dampening and heightening effects of the white blanket and the way in which perspectives shift in the mountains, making small things seem large and large things seem small.  These compositions, however, remain humble: often molded improvisations, shaped like drifts of notes piling up on the side of a well-supplied home.  In “Morning,” one can imagine the glitter of frost on a windowpane, tentative footsteps on a fuzzy rug, a cup of coffee and contemplation.

We assume some dramatic tension in the film; “Struggle” and “Storm” imply an inner and outer turmoil.  The first selection is fast and frantic, the second dark and brooding, although not too dark or too brooding; this is not Rani’s style.  Allowing the clouds to descend upon her compositions, she creates the contrast that allows some of the later tracks to rise, especially “Time,” which includes a clear percussive tempo.  We’re looking forward to seeing Susanna Fanzun’s “The Giacomettis” as it finds international distribution, but for now we can dream as the painter dreamt, and intuit the inspiration of the mountains through Rani’s compositions.  (Richard Allen)

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