Ruggeri can be very warm, when he drops big, fat pianos notes, likewise electronic beats, but his perfectionism does tend to keep the listener at arm’s length.
Conservatory-trained Stefano Ruggeri (b. 1977) spent three years on this striking debut album, marrying the late-Romantic sensibility of Gustav Mahler and his modernist successors Alban Berg and Anton Webern with synthesizer and polite, digital glitch rhythms. Lucen is an achievement of great beauty and serious depth.
His succinct piano playing is eloquent, his throaty strings, too. They say just enough. And his intent to bring fin-de-siècle Vienna into the twenty-first century is realized with great skill and refinement, especially on “Apart” and “Naked Icon.” But like “Stavrogin,” a track named for a character from Dostoevsky, Lucen is an ambiguous proposition. This music is cyrstal clear and polished to a gleam, but somewhat stand-offish, like a masterpiece roped off in a museum. Ruggeri can be very warm, when he drops big, fat pianos notes, likewise electronic beats, but his perfectionism does tend to keep the listener at arm’s length.
Berg and Webern were students of Arnold Schoenberg, who wished to safeguard the integrity of both music and thought by treating composition as the logical language of sound in movement. Ruggeri eschews any attempt to play on the emotions but his craft makes the mind race. Perhaps the sober gray, camel and dark coral of Lucen is best heard as a latter-day eulogy. Despite their invaluable contributions to modern art, none of these Viennese giants were granted the dignity of dying comfortably.