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Höstsonaten - Symphony N.1 - Cupid & Psyche CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.88 | 145 ratings

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4 stars Whether it's the luscious all instrumental four-album `Seasons' cycle or bombastic classical- influenced rock-operas such as `The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and its live interpretation `Alive in Theatre', Hostsonaten has always been the most purely symphonic project modern Italian progressive music icon Fabio Zuffanti is involved in, and he and his music collaborators here return in 2016 with `Symphony N. 1: Cupid and Psyche'. Zuffanti and his musical friends, including La Coscienza di Zeno's keyboardist Luca Scherani, Laura Marsano on classical and electric guitars, Paolo `Paolo' Tixi on drums and Danielle Sollo on fretted and fretless bass, are backed up by multi- member brass and woodwind sections as well as a string quartet, and without a doubt they've delivered one of the most proudly grandiose, extravagant and bombastic symphonic Italian works of the year!

`Cupid and Psyche' was a story originally written in the 2nd century AD by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis, concerning the overcoming of obstacles to the love between the above two characters and their ultimate union in a sacred marriage. The tale has not only been frequently retold in poetry, drama and opera, but depicted widely in painting and sculpture, and it makes for an ideal inspiration for the frequently theatrical and classical-flavoured style that Italian prog-rock is so often renowned for.

The album forms a continuous suite of instrumental music, and looking at some of the highlights, opener `The Sacrifice' blends skipping violin, triumphant horns and rollicking drums with whirring synth trills, and Mellotron and violin weave together dramatically with snapping up-tempo fanfare runs and spiralling synth soloing throughout `Zephyr'. Unsurprisingly with its title, `Love Scene' is a deeply romantic and softly swooning theme that would have fit right at home on any of the above- mentioned `Seasons' albums, and the extended guitar solo in the second half reminds instantly of the Flower Kings' Roine Stolt and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. `Unmasking' fleetingly reminds of Osanna with its mix of heavier guitars, dominating Mellotron with call-and-response horn duels and intimidating orchestration, but the second half turns acoustic with reflective prettiness.

There are four pieces that then make up the `Trial' movement - `Venus (1st Trial)' is often playfully mischievous with an approaching tension, `Entrapped (2nd Trail)' is a sobering piano, flute, violin and classical guitar rumination that rises in dignity with subtle orchestration, the sprightly `Sheep and Water (3rd Trail)' surprisingly grooves with jazzy electric piano dashes and soaring orchestral flights of fancy, and `Underworld (4th Trial)' is excited and full of liveliness, culminating in immaculate Pink Floyd-like weeping bluesy guitar strains over carefully humming Hammond organ before roaring to life in the powerful finale. `The Awakening' instantly launches into a Moog- powered sprint with a heavy driving beat and scratchy Mellotron, and the joyfully stirring `The Ascension' is a dashing reprise of perfectly fused rock and orchestra unity to finish on.

For such an epic undertaking, it's actually a welcome relief to find that `Symphony n. 1' is a forty- four minute vinyl-length release, often broken into shorter passages that together mean the album can be given plenty of replays without an overwhelming length becoming too intimidating. Some will find the album impossibly stuffy, pompous and self-indulgent (but hey, pretty sure that's what a lot of prog-fans are here for!), but lovers of the grandest of progressive rock styles will find this to be luxurious symphonic prog at its very finest, one of Hostsonaten's grandest artistic statements to date, and certainly one of the most sophisticated Italian releases of 2016.

Four and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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