While Sgobbio may be better known for his work with groups Pericopes (+1), Silent Fires and Hitra, solo piano is an important aspect of his creative life. His 2010 debut album Aforismi Protestanti was almost entirely solo, and he has recently described the format as the perfect “open trip diary”, a place where sound and imagination interact and bring limitless possibilities.
The album’s spartan title really needs little elaboration, save to say it was recorded by Stefano Amerio during two sessions at the internationally renowned Artesuono Studios. Sgobbio’s instrument of choice is a Fazioli F278 Mk III Grand, and his thoughtful and well-balanced programme combines his poetic sensibilities, compositional rigour and time-honed flair for searching improvisation.
The opening track, Fireflies, is a dedication to his parents and tips a nod to neo-classical minimalism. Naturally Sgobbio tacks closer to Frahm and Jarrett than the vacuous manoeuvres of Einaudi, conjuring a moment of great warmth and beauty. Atma Mater was written for Sgobbio’s late mentor Misha Alperin who died in his adopted Oslo in May 2018. A joyful dance where Eastern classical and folk traditions meet, it’s as if the great Ukrainian has risen.
Elsewhere, the two-part Third Ward suggest contrasting perspectives on the Covid-19 experience. Elegy is fittingly sombre, taking us back to that time when the world was enveloped in an eery silence, while the Coda appears to tentatively embrace the prospect of brighter times ahead. The dramatic overtones and pointillist minimalism of Acqua Grande are a bravura triumph, though the soft shimmering arabesques of the jewel-like Ghaza are no less moving in their own very different way.
Does the world need another album of solo piano music? As long as talented young musicians like Sgobbio have new stories to tell, the answer must surely be yes!
Fireflies; Zolla; Atma Mater; Ghaza; Racemi; Third Ward (Elegy); Acqua Grande; Feuilles; Third Ward (Coda) (39.52)
Sgobbio (p). Artesuono Studios, Udine, Italy, July 2020 and October 2021.
AMP Music & Records AT0114