On the one hand, a virtuoso classical pianist. On the other, a new music label, electronic “in principle.” And the result: an unexpected CD, surprising, audacious, intoxicating and complete: Not For Piano, by Francesco Tristano.
Not For Piano is the first album to be released on the InFiné label, founded in 2006 by Agoria, the new star of French techno, proclaimed to be a worthy successor by the king of the genre, Laurent Garnier.
Francesco Tristano, aged 25, is establishing himself as one of classical music’s rising stars. Growing up in Luxembourg of an Italian mother and living in Barcelona since 2003, he has an impressive CV; The winner of the 2004 Orleans International Contest, a highly prestigious competition dedicated to 20th Century classical music, he is a graduate of the very selective Juillard School in New York where he studied from 1998 to 2003, before studying at conservatories in Luxembourg, Brussels, and Paris…
A precocious child, Francesco Tristano first played the piano at the age of five. He gave his first concert at thirteen, and was performing his own compositions two years later. He then toured the world with several prestigious orchestras (The Russian National, The Lille National, The Wallonie Royal Orchestra, The Luxembourg Philharmonic…) under the direction of the world’s greatest conductors (Mikhail Pletnev, Claus-Peter Flor, Janos Furst…). He then recorded several albums (Ravel - Prokofiev - Schlimé in 2006, Luciano Berio – Complete Piano Works in 2005, J.S. Bach – The Complete Keyboard Concertos in 2004, Goldberg Variations in 2002…)
Although as a child he loved Bach, Vivaldi, Scarletti, Berio and Francesconi, he was quick to develop an interest in a wide range of musical styles. While he dreamed of becoming a drummer, he was also fascinated by jazz and improvisation, along with contemporary and electronic music. He studied piano jazz at the Luxembourg conservatory, and contemporary music at the Ecole Supérieure de Musique de Catalogne, at the same time creating several of his own musical projects, such as Chicko’s Akoustic band and The New Bach Players (for whom he composed an adaptation for piano and strings of Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons).
A music lover with an insatiable appetite for discovery, he soon began to experiment with genres, periods, interpretations and improvisations during his concerts. The audiences could have been disconcerted, but instead they loved it.
In 2005, Francesco Tristano started covering Strings of Life by Derrick May, a cornerstone of Techno music, as the closing number in his concerts. It was a gentle, ephemeral and hypnotic version. The InFiné label fell under his spell, and Agoria included this piece as the closing track on his Cute & Cult album. Far from going unnoticed, the piece was overwhelming endorsed by the pioneers of electro music, including Derrick May himself, Carl Craig and Mad Mike.
For Francesco Tristano, Not For Piano is an opportunity for open-ended playfulness. He mixes styles (classical, contemporary, jazz, techno) with an exceptional degree of maturity. It features Strings of life (previously released as a CD single, featuring remixes by Kiki and Apparat), as well as two new cover versions of electronic music. Firstly, The Bells, Jeff Mills’ rave anthem, which is here given a fluid, masterful treatment. Then, a delicate and dreamy interpretation of Overand, by the electronica geniuses Autechre (one of Francesco’s cult bands).
On other tracks, Not For Piano unveils new compositions, written by a team of two or four (in collaboration with Rami Khalifé or Raimundo Penaforte). The album was produced and mastered by Murcof, the Mexican producer and champion of elegant and melodic electronica. With discretion and subtlety, his production adds exquisite electronic touches, and creates multiple layers of synthesized magic (notably on AP, a tribute to the French composer Pascal Dusapin).
Not for Piano is an album of powerful contrasts: Music which is both complex and clear, dense and carefree, joyful (the “hit single” The melody) and melancholic (Barcelona Trist). Its brilliant and dark beauty evokes the work of pianist Paul Bley (to whom Tristano is often compared), and his sudden rhythmic breaks and melodic inventiveness recall the style of Frescobaldi (one of his heroes, to whom he gives a nod of recognition on Two mind one sound).
Demanding, though only of himself, Francesco takes us on a magical tour through different styles. Strict interpretation gives way to improvisation; classical leads to experimental. This journey is both sacred and carefree, shattering norms whilst showing respect for genres. A fine balancing act and a heady mix of musical styles, this album walks a tightrope, reaches great heights, and yet never stumbles.
Original Text - Damien Almira (December 2006)
Translation - Simon Summers (January 2007)
EPK directed by DMUTE