Glauco Venier: Miniatures (ECM 2385)

Miniatures

Glauco Venier
Miniatures
Music for piano and percussion

Glauco Venier piano, gongs, bells, metals
Recorded December 2013, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: June 10, 2016

On Miniatures, pianist and composer Glauco Venier, heard most often on ECM among his trio with Norma Winstone and Klaus Gesing, makes a solo debut for the label. In the album’s press release, Venier references his childhood in northern Italy, from where an abiding tranquility and love of church music (heard here in arrangements of the 13th-century Ave Gloriosa Mater Salvatoris and Guillaume Dufay’s Ce jour de l’an) took root in his soul and to which he adds green branches in this diaristic and largely improvised (re)collection for piano and percussion. Under that latter designation are included tuned sculptures of Udine artist Giorgio Celiberti and the “somnambient” sculptures of Harry Bertoia.

“Ritual” opens with an unmistakable Bertoia, proving that ruptures in the space-time continuum, regardless of what science fiction would have us believe, are in reality subtle events comprised of countless micro-portals. From them issues not the dark matter of another universe but rather melodies of light that have been growing within us all along. “Byzantine Icon” is thus more than a metaphor, but a liturgical truth polished until it becomes a reflective surface. Here, as elsewhere, the percussion is barely noticeable, an organic part of the environment in which we hear these sounds taking shape. “Prayer” likewise glimpses from behind closed eyes at the state of the world around itself and suspends its judgment in favor of spiritual description. The effect is such that the piano-only “Serenity” feels like a distant memory, while the gong-like “Abstractio,” in which the keyboard stands untouched, pulls a prophetic shadow into view.

The composed pieces stem from a variety of sources, including Gurdjieff, Komitas, and singer-songwriter Alessandra Franco. The latter’s “Gunam” reveals a boundary-crossing heart at the center of this music, inscribed by the grace of unknowability. Thus is confirmed a higher power for the lowly interpreter, whose footprints cross over into the vast continent of “Madiba” and the intimate chamber of “Visible Spirit” with comparable trust: in the listener, in the producer, and in the gifts made possible by both.

Although Miniatures is dedicated to Mauro Valoppi, a Friulian poet who took his own life in 1993, its quiet vivacity moves onward, clutching friendship as if it were a photograph to be taken out when sadness requires a vessel. Only then does joy have room to stretch.