Italian instrumental style. Organ and violin transcriptions

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Veretti, Ponchielli, Bazzini, Rota, Pilati
Lina Uinskyte, violin
Marco Ruggeri, organ
Pietro Bernasconi (1892)
Chiesa della Confraternita di San Bernardino, Vercelli, Italy

Among the most active Italian music player of the nineteenth century with no doubt it is to remember Antonio Veretti (Verona, 1900 / Roma, 1978). Graduated in composition in Bologna at only 21 years old, student of Mattioli and Alfano, he began a brilliant career as a teacher that brought him to the direction of the conservatories of Pesaro, Cagliari and Firenze. The background of Bologna takes him in touch with Riccardo Bacchelli and the “Ronda” literary movement: on a Bacchelli’s work he writes his first composition Il medico volante (1923-24). Then he moved to Milano and after that to Roma. His huge production inserts himself in the footsteps of Pizzetti and Casella, but it has many evolutions until the twelve-tone music of the 50’s. He is the author of many instrumental music works, such as symphonies, concerts and chamber music. Duo strumentale (1955), originally written for violin and piano, has a neoclassical, elegant and brilliant language in which the bound with the past is clear in the striking homage to Corelli ( 2nd part) and in the adoption of proper forms of the traditional instrumental music (Rondò of the 3rd part).
Famous for his activity as an opera composer, Amilcare Ponchielli (Pader­no Ponchielli, 1834 – Milano, 1886) was actually very prolific also in instrumental music and in particular the band one. Capriccio per oboe e pianoforte was composed for a friend and a colleague like Cesare Confalonieri, student of oboe at the conservatory of Milano, when Ponchielli studied composition, then became teacher of oboe at the same institute. The autograph (at Archivio Ricordi), an handwritten copy (at Museo Civico di Cremona) and the Ricordi posthumous edition of this work of 1889 are kept safe. In the manuscript the reported title is Gran Capriccio, in confirmation of the wide proportions and most of all of the formal well-constructed structure, with a range of characters, thematic revivals and the brilliant theme with final variations. The passionate and virtuoso writing of the oboe makes acceptable and convincing also the violin.
Extraordinary person, among the Italian opera composers, was that of Antonio Bazzini (Brescia, 1818 – Milano, 1897). Violin player of European fame, he studied composition in Leipzig from 1843 to 1848 in the circle of Schumann and Mendelssohn. The same Schumann praised his merits of violin player in 1843: «As a performer, Bazzini surely belongs to the larger of the present. I don’t know anyone good as him at technique, at grace and at fullness of sound, and most of all at pureness and equality. Besides he prevails the others especially in freshness, youth and in severity» (from Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik).
With the author at the piano, he had instead the privilege of playing Concerto per violino by Mendelssohn in a private performance. Strong of those experiences, his return in his homeland was the occasion to spread the interest for instrumental music in opposition to the triumphal opera. On the contrary someone saw him as the anti-Verdi, promoter of new ideas and repertoires. He wrote chamber music and for orchestra with particular attention to the violin. For those merits he was charged of teaching composition at the conservatory of Milano in 1873, institute of which he was director from 1882.
Concerto militare, name given to Concerto per violino e orchestra n. 5, dates back to 1863 and it was dedicated to the King Vittorio Emanuele II. The brilliant violin writing links itself with the strength of the instrumental part, that it is not only a simple accompaniment, but it is an integral part of the instrumental set. The military character of the two extreme movements contrasts with Preghiera centrale with an intense, melodic and nostalgic character.
Nino Rota (Milano, 1911 – Roma, 1979) has lived during the twentieth century, but for many reasons he is bounded to the previous one. Enfant prodige, he graduated in composition with Casella at just 19 years old, after debuting as a composer at just 11 years old with the oratory L’infanzia di San Giovanni Battista (1922), while in 1926 he wrote Il Principe Porcaro, a work for children by an Andersen’s fairy tale. But Rota is famous most of all for his numerous soundtracks, some of which awarded with international prizes. He worked also as an author of chamber music, for orchestra, for sacred and theatre music. Improvviso per violino e pianoforte here performed is a composition based on the main theme of the soundtrack D’amanti senza amore (1947).
The programme finishes with Preludio, Aria e Tarantella by Mario Pilati (Napoli, 1903 – 1938), student of Antonio Savasta at the conservatory of Napoli. Composer of precocious talent, he won many awards in prestigious competitions and also professorships  at various conservatories in Italy. First in Cagliari, from 1930 in the same Napoli. In the meantime, on the advice of Ildebrando Pizzetti, he moved to Milano, where he worked for Casa Ricordi in many ways. Although his short life, his production is huge, most of all for chamber music. He wrote also Concerto per orchestra, Suite per pianoforte e orchestra and an unfinished opera, Piedigrotta. Pilati stylistically was influ­en­ced by Pizzetti, but he reveals since the beginning a strong personality and an elegant talent. During the last years of his young life he was interested in popular themes of Napoli, of which Preludio, Aria and Tarantella are an adult and effective example: the quotes flow and contribute to the general unity of the work. The opening theme of Preludio, for example, returns at the end of Tarantella, brilliantly introduced by the vivid proceeding of the dance. Always in Preludio appears the O sole mio theme, at the piano, expertly hidden by the violin scales and by the harmony colours. The organ transcription of pieces first conceived for violin and orchestra or piano comes from the aim of underline the orchestral features of the organ. In particular we played a great Italian instrument of the late nineteenth century, built by Pietro Bernasconi in 1892 for the church of San Bernardino in Vercelli. This organ is in between the nineteenth century tradition of the “orchestra” organ and the next “symphonic” developments of the twentieth century organ: it has expressive sounds, impetuous reeds and ripieno. The performance at the organ of the piano and orchestra parts has necessarily entailed some adaptations. However the brief section of the organ keyboards compared to the piano is partly rewarded by the huge keyboard basses that gives a real whole depth like an orchestra. The expressive sweetness of the work, the flutes and reeds cantabile, the power of basses and bombards, the power of ripieno, all this united to the three sounding levels at the same time (two pedal keyboards and one keyboard), have made possible a challenging job of organ adaptation of the orchestra part.

Marco Ruggeri




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