Federico Albanese played not only his first concert at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight, but his first concert in Scotland, and the Italian composer was obviously enjoying the experience of Scotland - a country that he felt had a great affinity to his native Southern Italy.
“By The Deep Sea” is the new album from Federico Albanese so, as you would expect, some of the music in this single set performance came from here, and with Federico entering the stage to a very dimly and moodily lit Queen’s Hall while the sounds of waves echoed around, the venue was certainly as cinematic as his music. Add into this the fact that The Queen’s Hall is a former church, this mixture of sound and low light levels certainly had a meditative and contemplative atmosphere to it that could have belonged in some church sanctuary long ago. Very simple staging, but very appropriate as so much of Federico Albanese’s work is meditative and contemplative.
Federico Albanese is a composer of very special musical gifts and insights, and his compositions on piano, keyboards and integrated sounds are immersive experiences of beautiful music and sounds, as works from the new album like “Your Lunar Way” and “Veiled” leave you in no doubt that a very special talent is on stage.
To call “By The Deep Sea” and the previous album “The Blue Hour” (from which Federico played some music too) “albums” is a little bit of a disrespect to them I think as these are simply works containing music of beautiful and wondrous timeless qualities. Play the music of Federico Albanese now or in 100 or 200 years, it will make no difference to its listening, it will not have become fixed in time. There is also that feeling somehow that with Federico’s music you are being told a story, a cinematic experience for your own mind to create the visuals from his evocative music. If some of our great classical composers were alive and working now, I have no doubt that some of them would be exploring the soundscape that is Federico’s music.
The Queen’s Hall itself, with its very special natural acoustics, was the perfect venue for this performance tonight, and the sound engineer did a great job on this one. Another great advantage that this venue has is the opportunity for performers to play one of its wonderful pianos, and it was obvious that Federico Albanese was enjoying both of these experiences in this performance. This was not though a straightforward piano recital as Federico had some very special sound electronics with him to integrate his keyboards and other sounds into this live performance.
“By The Deep Sea” is simply an outstanding work of music, and I think it is best summed up by this quote from Federico Albanese himself from his own website
“By The Deep Sea is a state of mind in which I find myself quite often. It’s a sort of meditation state, when I try to detach myself from the daily life. In this inner world there is space to get closer to our deepest thoughts, ideas, doubts, close enough to see them clearly, from the right distance, and being able to process them, exorcise them, translate them into something else.”
For more information on this and other works go to
Before this concert, Federico’s work was, I have to admit, unknown to me, but I have found a new composer to add to my list of contemporary and classical favourites.
Opening for Federico was Isle of Skye born El Ghoul. The music of El Ghoul is created from analogue synths, mangled found sounds, samples and endless tape loops, and there is no real way to describe this performance other than strangely wonderful. Almost like floating somewhere in space and sound. It is so easy to imagine El Ghoul centre stage at a huge dance festival or small club - or church. Sometimes you struggle to understand why some people are support acts to the main headliner but, here, it is obvious and El Ghoul’s exploration into sounds fits in so well with Federico’s wider soundscapes.
My only negative for this performance was that, due to space, El Ghoul’s small, but very well equipped performance space (a table) was at the left of the stage and his almost silent stage entrance and exit, for me, made the performance a little detached from the audience; a few words would have spoken many and given huge insights into the creative processes behind this carefully imagined work. Much as I love Celtic music from Scotland, it is also great to find individual creatives like El Ghoul who are very much walking their own creative paths.
Review by Tom King