This remarkable collection of music for solo piano takes one short-form piece (ranging in length from just under half a minute to just over five) by each of 50 composers, forming a cross-section of piano music spanning the centuries from Rameau, born in 1683, to Alessandro Lucchetti, born in 1958. That a listener can make this astounding journey through piano music from the Baroque to the Contemporary in the space of two compact discs is truly a “shortcut” through the ages – but it misses nothing along the way. The programme is jam-packed with detail and character in its compact space. Ballista demonstrates how each composer is able to thoroughly express his style in a handful of bars, even if it means he must be incredibly versatile as a performer, continually adapting and readapting himself to the new territory of each musical microcosm. As he rightly points out, the brevity of these pieces means they are seldom programmed in recitals, such that even well-known composers are represented here by music that is likely to be a revelation to the listener. Guiding us through the twists and turns of this miniature labyrinth, Ballista offers a nine-word epigram to introduce each piece, compact as a haiku, they are often amusing, yet invariably thought-provoking.
This is one weird set. The concept at first may appear strange, but the execution is creative. Italian pianist Ballista has mostly selected from the least known of each composer’s works and includes a wide variety of contemporary avant-garde from such experimental figures as La Monte Young, Morton Feldman, Paolo Castaldi, Gyorgy Ligeti, John Cage, Luciano Berio, and George Crumb. Some take mere seconds, others a maximum of just over four minutes (Debussy’s `D’un cahier d’esquisses’). Choices for more mainstream composers are often obscure, but no less alluring for that. With such great variety Ballista proves himself a worthy interpreter, and the sound varies from decent to good. To entice us even further, Ballista includes an often humorous one-sentence descriptor for each piece. Score a smile and a thumbs up to Brilliant for daring to be different on this one.
– American Record Guide (Alan Becker)