Francesco Di Fiore, “Pianosequenza – Piano Music in Film” – Music by NYMAN, DI FIORE, GLASS, TIERSEN & SUSMAN – Zefir

by | Jan 26, 2016 | Classical CD Reviews

Francesco Di Fiore, “Pianosequenza – Piano Music in Film” – sel. from MICHAEL NYMAN: The Piano; The Diary of Anne Frank; A Zed and Two Noughts; FRANCESCO DI FIORE: At Precisely Six O’Clock; PHILIP GLASS: The Hours; The Truman Show; YANN TIERSEN: Amélie; WILLIAM SUSMAN: When Medicine Got it Wrong – Zefir Records ZEF9642 (Distr. by Naxos), 70:28 CD (9/25/15) ***:

B012BUMB1M Good film music either supports the tone and action of the movies in which it is being used or it is just simply a sonic backdrop that never interferes with the mood and dramaturge. I am not sure that any of these sets of snippets from some films in which piano is the “star” of the soundtrack is a ‘definitive’ performance but they are all well-played by pianist and composer Francesco Di Fiore and, in a couple of cases, made me curious about the movies with which I was unfamiliar.

I am so used to the sound and style all of Michael Nyman’s own piano playing and writing that I almost cannot get used to a slightly different take. Nyman himself is actually a classically trained and really good pianist and I think that his score to Jane Campion’s pivotal and wrenching The Piano is one of his best pieces of music. I know the odd little romance drama A Zed and Two Noughts as well as the somewhat weird Japanese animé version of The Diary of Anne Frank. These scores aren’t as well known as The Piano, for which I find Nyman’s own playing a bit more delicate, more emotionally waxing and waning.
I feel similarly about the two sets of selections from Philip Glass. His score to The Hours is among his best works and the strength of The Truman Show lies not in the music (much of which was not original material anyway) but in the odd morality play within a comedy starring Jim Carrey. I thought Di Fiore’s interpretation here – especially the finest section of The Hours; The Poet Acts, was quite engaging.

I also know the charming little French comedy/romance Amélie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet starring Audrey Tatou in her breakout role. This was interesting to me because Yann Tiersen’s score, also charming in itself, is not the centerpiece of that movie and plays a more subordinate role than Nyman’s The Piano by contrast. So I found the music here a pleasant rediscovery and the performance certainly attractive.

What intrigued the most here were the selections from the two films I had never heard of; Di Fiore’s own score to the Italian film At Precisely Six O’Clock by Giuseppe Gigliorosso and William Susman’s When Medicine Got It Wrong for the film by Katie Cadigan and Laura Murray. I had two different reactions to the music in these cases, using my little ‘rubric’ of “does it make me want to seek out the film?”

In the case of At Precisely Six O’Clock, I can’t say that I was truly compelled to go seek out the movie. According to Donato Zoppo’s booklet notes, this 2013 Sicilian film has received much “critical acclaim.” However, we do not get a clue as to its plot or topic. Di Fiore’s music is pleasant and evocative of an Italian sidewalk café. The music is nice and rambling in a scenic way but it does not make me want to go find the film.

However, William Susman’s When Medicine Got it Wrong was a different matter. Di Fiore turned the music by this Chicago-based film composer into a small piano suite and there is a kind of tension and uneasiness to the music that made me curious (even if the selection “No Money” sounds an awful lot like Phil Glass). The booklet notes here do explain that the original film is a documentary on the causes and frequent mis-diagnoses of schizophrenia; a depressing topic to be sure but I may have to go find this one.

Di Fiore and annotator Zoppo acknowledge the somewhat “minimalist” heritage that these film scores bear in common. But for the Nyman and Glass, for whom “minimalism” is their trademark to many, I am not so sure I heard that in the others. A lot of film music (most?) is built on small bits of theme and pulse that keep recurring.
None the less, this is a very enjoyable; not too taxing, album with performances that are, generally, excellent. I would still say if you really want to hear The Piano or The Hours; the original soundtrack albums are the way to go. In the case of When Medicine Got It Wrong I will certainly go seek out the film by Cadigan and Murray as the music and concept seem compelling.

—Daniel Coombs