Had a listener’s only exposure to Bruno Sanfilippo come about through hearing his recent Hypnos recording Urbs, said listener would have identified him as an exceptionally refined sound-sculptor working in the electro-acoustic ambient field. But the classically trained Sanfilippo also issues minimalist piano recordings, of which Piano Textures 3 is a particularly impressive example; it’s of course the third in a series (the first issued in 2007 and the second 2009), which can be purchased separately or in a lavish box set as a complete collection. It’s a luscious album of many moods—more often than not melancholy, though not exclusively so—that finds his reverberant piano playing augmented with electronic tinting and outdoors field recordings (bird chirps, water sounds). During the beautifully sad fifth, Sanfilippo adds chamber string textures as complements to the lilting piano patterns. Sometimes such additions aren’t necessary, however, as the piano playing would captivate perfectly well on its own without the accompanying sounds. The fourth setting exudes a bright, dance-like air that’s Debussy-like, while the seventh pairs strums of the piano’s inner strings with cascades that sparkle like rainfall. Sanfilippo’s shimmering piano sound suggests that he might regard Harold Budd as a kindred spirit, even if the latter’s style (especially on his early ambient classics) is gauzier.
Though Sanfilippo’s been recording music for more than two decades, there’s nothing jaded about the playing on Piano Textures 3, nothing to suggest that it’s merely one more release to add to an ever-growing pile. Instead, Sanfilippo invests the eight untitled pieces with deep feeling, and the listener is often taken aback by the elegance and beauty of the material. There’s some hint that the settings are largely rooted in improvisation; if so, the recording impresses even more because its harmonious pieces present themselves as formal compositions of distinct melodic character rather than directionless musings.