Bellafonte / Alessandro Deljavan - Piano Sonatas / 12 Preludes | RECORD STORE DAY

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Born in 1961, the Italian composer Raffaelle Bellafronte has produced a wide-ranging body of work in a modern tonal idiom. Previous albums of concertos, guitar music and chamber works paint a portrait of a lively mind and a personal voice embracing large dramatic gestures and lyric reflection, each as quintessentially 'Italian' in their expression as the other. The set of 12 Preludes opens with a magnificently imposing evocation of stillness, colored by the kind of bittersweet harmonies to be found in Bartok and the sense of musical space associated with Messiaen, building a surprisingly complete soundworld within the brief space of three minutes. The remaining preludes are no less ingenious in their economy of mood and gesture. Melancholy and frenzy alternate; glittering and asymmetrical rhythms stand in stark opposition to slow ostinato figurations; dense contrapuntal writing is cast against terse homophony. Bellafronte trained as a pianist himself, and he composes for the full spectrum of the instrument's heroic and sensual possibilities. There is a satisfying crunch to the harmonies and immediately appreciable breadth of vision to the opening paragraphs of the Sonata Prima Désaccord (2006), where contrapuntal and propulsive ostinato writing combine to pull the listener through a compelling narrative which feels longer than it's 12-minute duration. From three years later, the Second Sonata experiments with a Haydnesque binary form of two quick movements - a nervous, lopsided march followed by a frustrated would-be fugue with a brutal and macabre conclusion. The Third Sonata (2014) is the most substantial piece here in both duration and ambition, launched with a momentum worthy of Bartók or Alkan. The quick-slow-quick form is superficially conventional, but it encloses a wealth of surprising excursions which challenge tonal stability and once more pitch the listener into a pianistic tumult.