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Casella: Concerto Per Archi, Op. 40b; Cinque Pezzi, Op. 34; Turchi: Concerto Breve / Quartetto Di Venezia

Casella / Quartetto Di Venezia
Release Date: 11/19/2013 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8573019   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alfredo CasellaGuido Turchi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto di Venezia
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

CASELLA Concerto for Strings. Cinque pezzi. TURCHI Concerto breve Qrt di Venezia NAXOS 8.573019 (70: 54)

The Alfredo Casella Project (unofficially named, of course) continues apace at Naxos with this superb release of his Concerto for Strings, receiving here its world premiere recording, and his Cinque pezzi. Both written in the early 1920s, they nevertheless Read more represent the composer in his full maturity, incorporating several elements in his music from the aesthetic of Schoenberg as well as some of Stravinsky’s form. As the excellent liner notes by Giacomo Fornari point out, Casella seems to have found a perfect equilibrium between these two modern but diverse styles without sacrificing his own individual voice. The composer himself said that writing the Cinque pezzi brought him to “the very end of the Stravinskyan influence and the total disappearance of any tonal preoccupations.” As for the Concerto, its title signifies the particular style here of writing for the string quartet as a small orchestra rather than in the conventional style of a four-way musical conversation.

Both pieces are splendid in their own way. The Concerto, programmed first, is a perfect example of how to compose in the shadow of two musical giants without leaning too heavily on them. Despite the ambiguous harmonies, there is real melody creation here, particularly in the lyrical second movement (marked as a Siciliana ), which moves from a song-like opening to a rather jolly, rollicking section full of humor and surprise. Casella keeps his listeners off balance by reserving the right to move back and forth between these two moods at will, meanwhile adding elements to the music to keep it developing. The third movement ( Minuetto. Recitativo. Aria: Allegretto grazioso e molto moderato ), oddly enough, seems to follow Austro-German models of the minuet rather than imparting Italian flavor, but it does have a Casella-like accent. The bitonality here keeps the listener a bit off-balance even as the melody and rhythm follow prescribed minuet lines. The Finale ( Canzone: Allegro giocoso e vivacissimo ) really flies, pulling the listener through an amazing sequence of phrases, set to a vivacious, folk-like rhythm that forces the listener’s full attention. This is marvelous music.

Despite their episodic nature as part of a suite, the Five Pieces combine Stravinsky’s sense of structure and harmony with humor, particularly in the second of them ( Ninna nanna ), which sounds like a sort of danse macabre, as well as the loping, ironic-sounding fox-trot Finale. Casella also achieves a misterioso quality in both the “Valse ridicule” and the Notturno: Lento grave funebre.

Guido Turchi, a composer new to me, composed his Concerto breve in 1947. The notes indicate that he was influenced by Hindemith, though he dedicated this piece to the memory of Bartók and uses an incomplete 12-tone series. It’s an interesting and well-crafted piece, although to my ears a bit more academic, much more pre-planned and lacking in spontaneous creation.

The sound quality of this disc is simply stunning: crisp, clear, almost razor-sharp in its realistic presentation of the string sound, and the equally crisp playing of Quartetto di Venezia makes it a pleasure to hear.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1. Concerto for String Quartet, Op. 40 by Alfredo Casella
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto di Venezia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923-1924; USA 
2. Pieces (5) for strings, Op. 34 by Alfredo Casella
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto di Venezia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Italy 
3. Concerto breve by Guido Turchi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto di Venezia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Italy 

Sound Samples

Concerto, Op. 40: I. Sinfonia: Allegro brioso e deciso
Concerto, Op. 40: II. Siciliana: Andante dolcemente mosso
Concerto, Op. 40: III. Minuetto, Recitativo, Aria: Allegretto grazioso e molto moderato
Concerto, Op. 40: IV. Canzone: Allegro giocoso e vivacissimo
5 Pieces, Op. 34: No. 1. Preludio
5 Pieces, Op. 34: No. 2. Ninna-Nanna
5 Pieces, Op. 34: No. 3. Valse Ridicule
5 Pieces, Op. 34: No. 4. Notturno
5 Pieces, Op. 34: No. 5. Fox-Trot
Concerto breve: I. Elegia: Molto lento -
Concerto breve: II. Allegro, un po' concitato -
Concerto breve: III. Rondo: Allegro, piuttosto vivace e ben ritmato

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