This remarkable collection of music for solo piano takes one short-form piece (ranging in length from just under half a minute to just over five) by each of 50 composers, forming a cross-section of piano music spanning the centuries from Rameau, born in 1683, to Alessandro Lucchetti, born in 1958.
That a listener can make this astounding journey through piano music from the Baroque to the Contemporary in the space of two compact discs is truly a “shortcut” through the ages – but it misses nothing along the way. The programme is jam-packed with detail and character in its compact space.
Ballista demonstrates how each composer is able to thoroughly express his style in a handful of bars, even if it means he must be incredibly versatile as a performer, continually adapting and readapting himself to the new territory of each musical microcosm.
As he rightly points out, the brevity of these pieces means they are seldom programmed in recitals, such that even well-known composers are represented here by music that is likely to be a revelation to the listener.
Guiding us through the twists and turns of this miniature labyrinth, Ballista offers a nine-word epigram to introduce each piece, compact as a haiku, they are often amusing, yet invariably thought-provoking.
A special and intriguing concept: ultra-short (one minute plus) piano pieces by 50 composers, encompassing 3 centuries, starting with Rameau and ending with Sciarrino, Crumb, Ligeti and Berio.
Much can be said with few words, and so much can be expressed in a few notes; some composers struggled with large forms but could say a deep truth in one page.
Italian pianist Antonio Ballista colourful career includes the great classical repertoire, but he has also explored worlds such as those of ragtime, Italian and American popular songs, rock, and soundtrack music for the cinema. He has worked with Abbado, Bertini, Boulez, Brüggen, Chailly, Maderna and Muti, and played with orchestras such as BBC Symphony, the Concertgebouw, Israel Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, Wiener Philharmoniker, l’Orchestre de Paris, Philadelphia Orchestra, London Symphony, and New York Philharmonic. Composers who wrote for him include Berio, Bussotti, Donatoni, Sciarrino and others.