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Ildebrando Pizzetti was hailed in 1921 by The Musical Times as 'doubtless the greatest musician in Italy today'. Composed in 1918-19, the powerful Violin Sonata opens with a turbulent evocation of war and continues with a prayer for the innocent be
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Rarely Heard Chamber Music by Ildebrando PizzettiJuly 29 2010
J Scott Morrison
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
[I will be doing something here that I've never done before: writing essentially the same review for two new but differing recordings of the same piece -- Ildebrando Pizzetti's Piano Trio in A (1925) -- which had never been recorded before and suddenly has two recordings issued in the same month. They are this one on Naxos performed by Leila Rásonyi, violin, Lászlo Fenyö, cello, and Alpaslan Ertüngealp, piano and the one on the Concerto label with the Trio di Parma Trio in La / Tre Canti. Actually the Naxos performance was originally issued on the full-price Marco Polo label in 2009.]
Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968) was a composer from Parma whose main compositional output was in opera. His operas were very popular in the early years of the twentieth century but have fallen into obscurity except in his native Italy and even there they are not often done. But he always composed non-lyrical works and I first encountered him in a recording of his wonderful Concerto dell'Estate (Summer Concerto) from thirty or more years ago, conducted by Lamberto Gardelli Pizzetti/Rota/Respighi and then recorded again by a Greek orchestra on Naxos just last year Ildebrando Pizzetti: Concerto dell'estate; La Festa delle Panatenee. So I knew he was capable of writing music of a more abstract nature than that of opera. On both of the discs mentioned above the centerpiece is the Piano Trio in A. On the Concerto disc the accompanying pieces are Tre Canti (1924) for Cello and Orchestra, along with four small early pieces for violin and piano. On the Naxos disc we get Tre Canti again, but this time in Pizzetti's arrangement for violin and orchestra, along with the Sonata for Violin and Piano (1918-1919).
The Piano Trio in A is a large work -- thirty minutes or so -- that is exceedingly rhapsodic in effect although if one listens carefully one realizes that it is fairly tightly formally organized. Strangely, each instrument enters with its own thematic material and although there is interchange in the working out of the long first movement -- thirteen minutes -- each primarily retains its own material. There is an ecstatic feeling in much of the trio and the Naxos booklet writer suggests this may reflect Pizzetti's happiness over his recent marriage to his second wife, Rirì -- his first wife had died unexpectedly three years earlier. The middle movement is rapturous; it too begins with each instrument playing its own materials. The finale is subtitled 'Rhapsodia di settembre' ('September Rhapsody') and the booklet writer comments that it was only recently noticed that in September 1924 Pizzetti had written his new wife that he had become certain that his deceased first wife had 'given her blessing, from beyond the grave' to the new relationship. As to the performances here: the musicians on Concerto (Trio di Parma) give a somewhat more warm and emotional reading to the trio, the Naxos group a more gentle, sensitive, slightly more reticent performance. The Parma performance is marginally slower and in marginally more reverberant acoustic. I like both performances and am glad to have both.
On the Naxos disc we get the Violin Sonata, written right after World War I and clearly in memoriam for those who participated in or were affected by the conflict. The first movement is 'tempestosa' ('tempestuous') and one can hear the unrest and dislocation of wartime. The second movement is subtitled 'Preghiera per gl'innocenti' ('Prayer for the Innocents'), a gentle and heartfelt lament for those lost in the war. The finale, 'Vivo e fresco' ('lively and fresh'), attempts to evoke the renewal of hope after the war. This is an impressive sonata and the performance is impressive as well.
In 1924 Pizzetti wrote 'Tre Canti' ('Three Songs') for cello and piano; later that year he arranged it for violin and piano and authorized both versions. These are three lovely mostly gentle lyrical effusions. On Concerto we get the cello version, on Naxos the violin version. Both performances are very nice.
The fillers on the Concerto disc are three short lyrical violin and piano pieces and one very short piece for cello and piano: Aria; Colloquio; Aria; and Arietta. These are fairly negligible, if pretty, and are well done here.
Which CD to choose for the Piano Trio? I am glad I have both. Perhaps you can decide based on what I have written above which you might choose if you are limiting yourself to only one of them.