Global guitarist and composer Giovanni Piacentini’s talents as a dual-threat musician are on full display on CHIAROSCURO, his debut album. He wrote all these works themed around his instrument of choice, and his playing appears on two pieces – Miniatures, for guitar and chamber ensemble, and a solo guitar performance on the title track. Yet, even on the tracks where he does not perform, the composer’s voice remains ever-present, namely in each work’s reverberant use of space.
Piacentini describes himself as highly attuned to the “overall sound and impact” of classical guitar. The album’s three works affirm this assertion, and indicate this sensitivity also applies to pieces which pair guitar with an ensemble (Miniatures) as well as compositions written for a different set of instruments entirely (Chasing Shadows). Throughout CHIAROSCURO, the guitarist’s musical mindset as a solo performer remains a central influence on the album’s compositional personality.
The title track’s five movements feature a distinguished improvisatory style, which develops with enthralling spatial characteristics that blend the guitar’s various timbres with added reverberation. Under Piacentini’s virtuosic hands, Chiaroscuro beautifully mixes harmonics, tremolo, and other techniques that yield a detailed musical landscape rich with naturalistic imagery.
Miniatures expands the guitar-centric color palette of Chiaroscuro, with an accompanying ensemble accentuating the six-string’s timbres with flavors of bass clarinet, vibraphone, percussion, viola, and violin. At points, the strings and bass clarinet seemingly emerge from the sound of the guitar, illustrating the connection between Piacentini’s perspectives as a composer and performer. Chiaroscuro and Miniatures share similar structures; each work has multiple movements based on specific images – seasons and times of day in Chiaroscuro, and paintings in Miniatures – and tend to present musical snapshots more than transforming narratives.
In addition to its absence of guitar, Chasing Shadows – for violin, bass clarinet, vibraphone, and harp – is a distinct work on the album. Here, the violin is the primary soloist, and leads the listener on an exciting and beautiful musical journey. Accordingly, Piacentini designs an exquisite violin part that traverses a range of moods and energies, from determined athleticism to yearning lyricism.