Music: Fabrizio Paterlini @Conway Hall, London

To thine own self be true

Given such an intense week of pomp, circumstance and ever-increasing outlandish competitive virtue signalling, Conway Hall became an oasis for the soul, stillness, sincerity, humility and reason on Thursday evening, when after an absence of the years we’ve all seemingly lost, Italian composer Fabrizio Paterlini had arrived back on our UK shores.

Photo by Tayler Prince-Fraser

One might think he flew here (he probably actually did though), by the power of his notes, his music, his gentleness, at least according to the short intro animation played before the show began. In the film, Fabrizio glided above a beautiful warm, colourful landscape and city, soaring to the heavens, radiating hypnotically across the horizons, constant movement, spreading, sharing. It transpires the city in the film was Mantua in northern Italy and mentions this as he explains that as he is fortunate enough to see many cities around the world, and he gets to see our city, he wants to show us his.

There is no nationalistic pride, nor fervour, just a beautifully grounded, hello, here’s my home, where I’m from, and there’s a palpable peace that glows from this simple act, and the visuals we’ve just seen, setting the tone for the evening. It’s aptly supported by the fact he’s resplendent in a t-shirt, chinos and has an entire sleeve tattoo. This is not the guise of what is ‘normally’ the demeanour for pianists, and we are all the more rewarded for it. He’s also very, very funny, with a truly disarming Zen attitude. This is sincere shared experience, and as Fabrizio was recently introduced to me, I shall to you.

Photos by Tayler Prince-Fraser

Again the timing, situation and indeed venue seemed to coalesce into the perfect ‘storm’ of beauty. Can tenderness be a storm? I think it can, especially in an increasingly chaotic, aggressive, insane environment. The venue was Conway Hall, opened in 1926 and was owned by the Conway Hall Ethical Society, so expanding minds is built into every brick of the building. And as the notes rose, so did my eyes, above the piano, above the video screen, and up to the ceiling, where the words ‘To thine own self be true’ were painted onto a joist. They were written possibly 100 years ago, but they could have been written especially for tonight.

Fabrizio describes the inspiration, tone and reasoning of his cinematic compositions as ‘composing sad music makes me happier’, but I don’t wholly agree with this ‘sad’ description, as it is so gorgeous, flowing, yet contains an elegant stillness, space, at one with itself, that it’s not a sadness, but a mediation, reflection in the moment. And despite such calm, can be overwhelming in the best way possible.

Photo by Tayler Prince-Fraser

I mentioned briefly in a post after the gig, that it’s always takes my breath, when a giant cold slab (in this case a huge black Bösendorfer piano), can create such warm ethereal sound, filling the room, your soul and your life. It also happens instantly in the opening keys of Eyes Closed (Transitions, 2019), as everything, the room, sound, music and visuals start to morph into one, creating a score to our very existence, and this moment in time.

It was an evening of halves, the first being more recent works, including a gorgeous cover of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun, and in support of his beautiful new Elements series EP Terra, and the second of pieces from his back catalogue, including ones that he giddily explains, he loves, but the audience doesn’t (the eternal curse of a creative), and ones he didn’t think much of, but the world embraces.

Photo by Tayler Prince-Fraser

These very funny and honest comments only add to the universal calling for such compositions, these are not for any elite, any supposed manufactured construct of class, these really are for everyone. As clearly actor Chris Evans (Captain America) also believed, when he shared his rendition of Fabrizio’s Rue Des Trois Frères (from Fragments, 2010) during lockdown.

An incredible evening by all accounts, Fabrizio ended by telling a very funny tale of his experience with the ‘tradition’ of walking off stage, to come back to play one last song, only to find the audience had completely gone. He promised it wouldn’t be so many more years before his return, and I will definitely be there with a warm welcoming heart. There are still a couple of European tours dates to come, and whilst we wait for another UK/London visit, here’s a gorgeous live session he did a couple of years ago to express what wonders are in store for you.

Fabrizio Paterlini’s new EP ‘Terra (Earth)’ is out now, further tour information can be found at fabriziopaterlini.com

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