Monday, 2 January 2012

THE SYMPHONY OF THE SEASONS

Fabio Zuffanti
Höstonaten is a project that dates back to 1991. It’s mainly the brainchild of Fabio Zuffanti, a very prolific multi-instrumentalist and composer involved in many other bands and projects such as la Maschera di Cera, Finisterre, Aries and Rohmer just to name a few. The name of this project was inspired by a famous film directed by Ingmar Bergman, Autumn Sonata, and the love for cinema can be also perceived in the evocative atmospheres conjured up by the music. After two interesting albums (Höstonaten, released in 1996, and Mirrorgames, released in 1998), Fabio Zuffanti started to work on a series of musical tableaux inspired by the cycle of the seasons that was completed in 2011 with “Summereve”, the album inspired by Summer. The album was released on the independent label AMS/BTF and is the first part of cycle. Well, the first part of this cycle was also the last one to be released but I think that it’s the right starting point to explore all the albums of the cycle if you haven’t listened to them yet. The line up here features along with Fabio Zuffanti (bass, Moog, Taurus bass pedals, acoustic guitar, tambourine, tubular bells) also Luca Scherani (Mellotron, Hammond and Church Organ, Minimoog, Grand Piano, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, Roland & Yamaha synthesizers, RMI keyboard, Farfisa, Sequencers, piano), Maurizio Di Tollo (drums, congas, tambourine), Matteo Nahum (acoustic and electric guitars), Fausto Sidri (didgeridoo, percussion), Joanne Roan (flute), Luca Tarantino (oboe), Sylvia Trabucco (violin), Alessandra Dalla Barba (violin), Ilaria Bruzzone (viola) and Chiara Alberti (cello). The beautiful art cover by Davide Guidoni tries to capture the spirit and the colours of the music opening a door for your imagination...



The first track “Seasons’s Ouverture” is a suite in six parts (Rite Of Summer, In The Rising Sun, The Last Shades Of Winter, A Church Beyond The Lake, La Route Pour Finistére and Springtheme). The mystery of the Summer solstice is celebrated at dawn with a rite featuring a crescendo of percussions, then the sun begins to shine and lights up the colours of the nature. Fabio Zuffanti had the idea of this cycle of the seasons during a journey in Brittany and you can try to follow him on his way to Finistère to visit a quiet, beautiful church beyond a lake... Acoustic guitar passages, swirling flutes notes, fiery keyboards surges: the music is complex with many changes in rhythm and mood but always warm and pleasant. There’s no interruption between the different tracks of this work and piano and violin lead the way to the idyllic, romantic “Glares Of Light”. “Evening Dance” follows, bringing a touch of mystery and lightness while “On The Sea” is more reflective and dreamy. On the evocative “Under Stars” you can listen to some narrative vocals... “We celebrated every moment of our meetings as epiphanies / Just we two in all the world / Bolder, lighter than a bird’s wing, you hurtled like vertigo / Down the stairs, leading through moist lilac to your realm / Beyond the mirror...”. These are the first verses of a poem by Arseny Tarkovsky that you can hear in The Mirror, a 1975 film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, son of the poet... An electric guitar riff then introduces “Blackmountains” an amazing track full of colours and exotic touches where flamenco guitar and violin interact broidering delicate melodies. Next comes the tense “Prelude Of An Elegy” that drives you towards a storm and to the last track of this album, the melancholic “Edge Of Summer”. Well, on the last notes you can feel that Autumn is coming soon...




Höstonaten: Summereve (2011). Other opinions:
Conor Fynes: An almost entirely instrumental journey, Hostsonaten creates a stunning soundtrack for the warmest of seasons; a beautifully fitting score to the coming months. Although the concept of this album may seem tacky at first glance, the brilliant way Hostsonaten executes it puts “Summereve” among the freshest sounding symphonic prog rock albums in recent memory... (read the complete review HERE).

You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

“Autumnsymphony” is the second part of Höstonaten’s cycle of the seasons and was released in 2009 on the independent label AMS/BTF with a line up featuring along with composer and producer Fabio Zuffanti (bass, bass pedals, acoustic and electric guitar, Fender Rhodes, mellotron, minimoog) also Federico Foglia (drums), Pietro Martinelli (double bass), Carlo Barreca (stick), Giacomo Villa (cello), Osvaldo Loi (viola, violin), Marco Moro (flute, piccolo), Andrea Benassi (oboe), Michele Bernabei (trumpet), Edmondo Romano (sax, bagpipes, Robbo Vigo (grand piano, koto special effects), Matteo Nahum (classical and electric guitar) and Simona Angioloni (vocals). Here the musical colours of Autumn are painted with a touch of jazz and classical inspired passages. On the wonderful art cover by Davide Guidoni you can see some men walking in a wood and entering into the mist: in my opinion all you have to do to enjoy this album is following them, they will lead you into a magic realm of dreams and notes...



The opener “Open Windows To Autumn” begins with a soft drumming and pulsing double bass lines, then a trumpet solo contributes to draw a disquieting, dark mood. What can you see from your window in a foggy autumnal day? Probably just some shadows and shapes, you hae to imagine the rest... The following track “Leaves In The Well (Including Riverbank Prelude)” features a melancholic atmosphere and a good guitar work while “Out Of Water” begins with a delicate piano and violin passage before turning into bolero and jazz... Well, the art work is not limited to the cover, in the booklet you can find a painting describing each track and in my opinion they perfectly fit the music. The third painting represents a brook, the fourth a swan in a pond.... Now the day is getting darker, but you can see a white swan swimming in a pond and you can look at its acrobatics on the notes of “Nightswan I and II”... All night long the image of the swan hangs over, then a trumpet backed by a bagpipe announces the dawn and the beginning of the new day depicted in “As The Night Gives Birth To The Morning”. A joyful passage of flute in “Trees In November” reminds you that, all in all, the autumnal landscape of the woods can be of such intense beauty to push you to dance, then, as the music calms down, you can rest and contemplate the magic of the nature. In November they celebrate All Souls’ Day or the Day of the Dead and on “Elegy” the beautiful voice of Simona Angioni soars drawing a wordless, melancholic melody to remind you of the dead people you miss. The crepuscular “Autumn’s Last Breath / The Gates Of Winter” concludes the album... “It’s not dark yet, but the end is here, in front of me...”. The last words are a quote from a film directed by Werner Herzog, Heart of Glass...   

Höstonaten: Autumnsymphony (2009). Other opinions:
Jerry Lucky: Expect to hear some soothing flute, ringing acoustic guitars, mournful Mellotrons, spiced up with some stinging electric guitar, saxophone or trumpet. The compositional style provides huge swells of music, anthemic even, contrasted against more somber soft and delicate interludes; never aggressive the music instead projects a feeling of power... (read the complete review HERE)

You can listen to the complete album in streaming HERE

Hostsonaten Live 2008

“Winterthrough” is the third part of Höstonaten’s cycle of the seasons and was released in 2008 on the independent label AMS/BTF with a line up featuring along with composer and producer Fabio Zuffanti (bass, bass pedals, acoustic and electric guitar, moog, percussion) also Alessandro Corvaglia (Mellotron, Mini-Moog, synthesizers, keyboards), Maurizio Di Tollo (drums, cymbals, tambourine, gong, percussion), Matteo Nahum (electric guitar), Edmondo Romano (sax, clarinet) and Robbo Vigo (piano, Hammond and Church organ, strings ensemble, glockenspiel, horns). The soft musical colours of Winter are painted here with delicate and balanced classical passages and an overall symphonic sound. Davide Guidoni’s art work invites you to take an immaculate white path leading in a wood, there’s snow all around and magic in the air...



The epic opener “Entering The Halls Of Winter” begins softly, just some delicate notes of piano, then the rhythm section comes in and the atmosphere becomes hypnotic. You’re not walking alone, a whole army of ghosts is marching with you as if they were icy soldiers in a snowstorm... When the rhythm calms down you are alone again and you can admire the beauty of the nature around you. It calls you, go on, look ahead, beyond the horizon, far away, up to the limit of the world... It’s not dark yet, but the end is here, in front of you... The voice-over that you can hear on “Red Sky” is taken from Werner Herzog’s film, Heart of Glass (as the last words in Autumnsymphony) and evokes apocalyptic images: Time begins to crumble and after Time it’s the turn of the Earth, it’s the beginning of the end, everything falls down... “I’m falling down, I go down and down, it’s the dizziness...”. “White Earth” is a short, dreamy acoustic passage but in the following “Snowstorm” powerful winds begin to blow. An electric guitar solo leads to the jazzy “Over The Plain” where a trumpet draws dark shadows on the white landscape. On the second part of the beautiful, ethereal “The Crystal Light” the over-voice comes back conjuring new visions... “Once again I see a feather floating in the brook / And the wind pushing the fire on / I’ve seen the trees burning like matchsticks / I see some men running up the hill / Breathless, they stop at the top and paralyzed they turn into stone, one beside the other / The forest is made of stone / Everything becomes silent... Am I really the last one?”. On “Outside” the rhythm rises and the mood becomes lighter. Next comes the quiet, dreamy “Ruins” that fades into the short acoustic “Through Winter’s Air”. The last track is the long, complex “Rainsuite” which is divided in four parts (Prelude, New year’s theme, Winter’s end, Celebration / To the Open Fields...). It starts softly, the mood is melancholic but melancholy eventually gives way to optimism and a drum roll seems to announce the celebration of the vernal equinox and the upcoming rites of spring. A magnificent grand finale for a wonderful album!

Höstonaten: Winterthrough (2008). Other opinions:
Thomas Szirmay: The finest definition of contemplation in prog music, a serenely nostalgic all-instrumental adventure that luxuriates in the almost classical expression of the Four Seasons that nature provides with since time immemorial. Having Vivaldi as their compatriot is already a great omen, but of course, here we are dealing with a full-blown progressive delivery... (read the complete review HERE)

You can listen to the complete album in streaming HERE

“Springsong” is the fourth and last part of Höstonaten’s cycle of the seasons although it was the first to be released. In fact, it was originally released in 2002 on the independent label Sublime. In 2009 it was remixed, restyled and re-released on AMS/BTF with a different art cover by Davide Guidoni. Along with composer and producer Fabio Zuffanti (acoustic guitars, bass) here the other musicians involved in the project are Francesca Biagini (flute), Sergio Caputo (violin, percussion), Federico Foglia (drums, percussion), Agostino Macor (piano, mellotron, hammond, moog), Stefano Marelli (acoustic and electric guitars), Edmondo Romano (recorders, bagpipes, sax), Boris Valle (piano) and Robbo Vigo (piano). The musical colours of the spring are rendered with a strong folkloric touch and melodic freshness.


The opener “In The Open Fields” begins with the same arpeggio which closed “Winterthrough”, then the sound of a flute evokes a pastoral, peaceful atmosphere. With “Kemper – Springtheme” we go back to Brittany, where our journey through time and nature began and in Quimper now we can breathe the fresh air of spring. “Living Stone And 1st Reprise” is dreamy and full of melody while on the evocative “She Sat Writing Letters On The Riverbanks” we meet again the poetry of  Arseny Tarkovsky... “Your eyelids, brushed with blue, were peaceful and your hand was warm / And in the crystal I saw pulsing rivers, smoke-wreathed hills, and glimmering seas / Holding in your palm that crystal sphere, you slumbered on the throne, and - God be praised! - you belonged to me / Awaking, you transformed the humdrum dictionary of humans / Till speech was full and running over with resounding strength, and the word you revealed its new meaning: it meant tsar...”. “The Underwater And 2nd Reprise” begins with a touch of jazz and a darker mood, then an electric guitar solo breaks in as a sunray through the clouds leading to the reflective “Lowtide”. “The Wood Is Alive With The Smell Of The Rain” begins with a renaissance flavour, then keyboards and guitar lines take you back from dream to reality and you are ready to merrily dance in the following “Evocation Of Spring In A Fastdance”. The long, complex “Toward The Sea” closes the season’s cycle. It’s a suite in four parts where you can appreciate the reprise of some themes. A wonderful grand finale!

The 2009 re-issue of this album features also a bonus track, “Suite Bretonne”. It’s  a piece in three parts for acoustic, classical and 12 strings guitars that was composed and recorded in late 1998. According to Fabio Zuffanti it was the starting point of the whole cycle of albums since after a few months this piece evolved into “Springsong”...

Höstonaten: Springsong (2002). Other opinions:
Michael Popke: These nine songs need no titles as they meld beautifully into each other, creating an aural environment filled with sunshine and peace... (read the complete review HERE).

You can listen to the complete album in streaming HERE

More info: