CD REVIEW: Arturo Stàlteri, ‘Rings – Il Decimo Anello’, Materiali Sonori Records, 2003

By Chris Seeman:

To the English-speaking world, Italy remains very much the terra incognita for Tolkien-inspired music. Boasting a spectrum that embraces traditions as disparate as nationalist rock and avant garde jazz, Italia is home to no fewer than twenty-eight Tolkien-inspired artists. The most recent addition to this growing edifice is classically trained pianist Arturo Stàlteri, whose concept CD, ‘Rings – Il Decimo Anello’, has just hit the stores.

“Unfortunately, the nine rings given to men by the Dark Lord in the past devastated their souls,” remarks Stàlteri, explaining the title’s subtext, “it is my hope that the new peoples in the future can forge a tenth that will perpetually renew love and respect amongst all the creatures of this living earth.” ‘Il Decimo Anello’ delivers on this promise with an array of fifteen (principally instrumental) meditations upon LotR.

A true musician resists the temptation of reducing his art to a mere vehicle of personal promotion. Stàlteri shows his quality in this regard by sharing the spotlight – indeed, yielding it in many cases – to a fellowship of virtuosos who coalesce into a richly textured ensemble. Stàlteri’s piano establishes the rhythmic foundation for a variety of strings and woodwinds (some of medieval or renaissance origin) to create a warm, robust sound that is both unfamiliar and attractive.

With the exception of two lyrical pieces sung (in English and Italian) by Jenny Sorrenti, ‘Rings’ presents itself as something akin to a gallery of impressionist painting, focusing upon broad contours rather than a precise narrative. Stàlteri accents this original collection with a striking new rendition of Bo Hansson’s “The Old Forest,” a track from the latter’s pioneering 1970 concept album, ‘Sagan om ringen’.

This ‘hommàge’ suggests a not unfitting comparison between the two works. Both are unique in their instrumentation, arrangement and underlying spirit. The first has become a milestone in the history of Tolkien-inspired music; the second deserves no less.

‘Il Decimo Anello’ can be purchased on-line through Materiali Sonori (