Visual Piano: Francesco Di Fiore

Valeria Di Matteo
The Capstone Theatre
5th March 2015

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

In this latest in the Capstone's Contemporary Piano series of concerts, the programme informed that 'Visual Piano' is a shape shifting project where piano music and visuals meet and interact. So what do you get and to what effect? Well it's a subjective mixture of continuous Baroque, or more modern composed pieces, delivered from the globetrotting fingers of Di Fiore and the editing expertise of Di Matteo, who was also on duty tonight.

The only exception was the first piece, Simon Songs, a world premiere, courtesy of Douwe Eisenga from Holland. The piano promenaded to visuals that looked static, but which had intended minimalist movement in them. A Couperin work was accompanied by images of a boy riding a bike in circles in a loft, to a looping piano theme.

William Susman's (2010) Quiet Rhythms had three pieces, split into Prologue and Action phases,which scuttled through a selection of visual piano keys, abstract escalator psychedelia shots, and on to a silhouetted chain of well heeled passengers in a glass walled airport lounge.

Without breaking into a sweat Di Fiore swept on to Sonata V from Venetian, Baldassarre Galuppi. Around four centuries after it was composed it afforded Di Fiore an easy tinkling soundscape to the travelogue of trees, cellnet masts and scudding skies on the screen.

The highlight of the first half was Matteo Somacal's The Whale Divertessement. Based on different aspects of the surfacing practices of whales, the piano parodied the images, crashing, thrashing and benignly following the exceptionally edited footage.

The interval provided a moment for appraising the refractive index of The Capstone's own glass frontage and the air conditioning hum, as it vied for precedence over some Scarlatti interval music emanating from the auditorium, before two works from the venue's own Neil Campbell started the second half.

2 Night Sketches from 2004 was all city lights by a river, often in abstract bifurcation, to the tune of a pregnant and expressive musical theme. Alessandro Scarlatti's Adagio and Ballet followed; shimmery waves of sound rippling like those on the beach in the backdrop. Marco Betta's Suite, from 'Secret Journeys' (2014) carried a performance enigmatic in both formats. A shadowy male figure was juxtaposed with the ankles and high heels only, of a woman - portraying what? The extant lingering of a surviving relationship, or the last embrace of an older prison of missed chances? The circulatory striving of the piano was equally ambivalent.

Crashing keys and trills and a wave battered sea wall came with Domenico Scalatti's Sonata in E Major. Perhaps there was too much trill in this one.

Finally 6 Miniatures, from Di Fiori himself, finished the advertised works. The black notes on the piano carried a dystopian darkness while the video was of barbed wire barriers and charcoal smeared scribbles; there was something beyond the defensive wall that was ulteria,depressive, psychotic. Penguins, like Lowry-bent 'people' vied with ossifying beached jelly fish; peacock eyes flashed; a Fauvist, Derain window view intruded and there was Picasso-like fragmentation and distortion of time. All this to some stentorian playing on a piano that was wonderfully on edge.

The encore also provided more barbed wire video and heavy water playing. All of this the charismatic Italian took in his stride, whilst his compatriot too, seemed happy with the night's work. Abstract or otherwise, she explained to me that her visuals did not always carry a definitive message, it being in the eye of the beholder to interpret their contents and the musical pairings.

An intriguing concept and concert then, well received by a small but appreciative, audience.

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