Raffaele Grimaldi: An Image of Eternity
Blue Spiral Records

Recorded in France with Raffaele Grimaldi playing a 2012 Fazioli concert grand, An Image of Eternity features fifteen solo pieces the classically trained Italian pianist composed between 1999 and 2015. In attempting to create material whose pure character would enable it to transcend the fleeting present, Grimaldi, a graduate of the Conservatory “G. Martucci” in Salerno, the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, and IRCAM in Paris, obviously set his aspirations high for the recording. Many of its pieces were written years ago, which has granted them the opportunity to refine with age, much like, to borrow his own simile, “rocks smoothed by water.”

Grimaldi's stately performances are marked by elegance and poise. Yet while his compositions pose considerable technical challenges to the pianist, their warmth and melodicism make them immediately accessible. One is repeatedly swept away during the seventy-seven-minute recording by his playing, especially when its breeziness calls to mind sweeping Neapolitan vistas and Italian countrysides. His dramatic material is emotional but not overwrought, and its sophisticated presentation prevents it from lapsing into sentimentality. And though arpeggiated sequences and dazzling flourishes abound, they do so without overwhelming the melodic dimension.

Apparently one of the fifteen pieces was improvised in the studio, though Grimaldi's coyly left it to the listener to determine which one. It's not an easy call, particularly when every setting gives the impression of having been meticulously written, but I'll hazard a guess and pick “An Ocean Beyond Your Secrets,” simply because its ten-minute presentation exudes the quality, at least in places, of a free-flowing improvisation. Wistful, elegiac settings of great tenderness and delicacy appear (“In me”) alongside uptempo showpieces (“Vertigo”), and “Blue Nightfall” and “Come aria” demonstrate Grimaldi's remarkable sensitivity of touch and handling of dynamics and tempo. In such cases, his avowed affection for fellow pianists such as Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau comes through clearly, and throughout the album Grimaldi's desire to communicate with immediacy without sacrificing compositional complexity is effectively realized.

April 2017