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Caetani: Piano Music / Alessandra Ammara

Caetani / Ammara
Release Date: 02/25/2014 
Label:  Brilliant Classics   Catalog #: 94909   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Roffredo Caetani
Performer:  Alessandra Ammara
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CAETANI Ballata, Impromptus, Toccata, op. 9. Sonata for Piano in A?, op. 3 Alessandra Ammara (pn) BRILLIANT 94909 (78:45)

What a stunning discovery! Immediately after beginning to comprehend that Roffredo Caetani was, based on this disc, a composer of genuine quality, my first move was to go to the Fanfare Archive. Not a note of his music has been reviewed until Read more now. Nor can I find any other indication that a note of it has been recorded until now (though some sharp reader will no doubt point out some precedent).

Caetani lived a long life of 90 years, from 1871 to 1961. He was born into an important Italian family. His father had been mayor of Rome and Italy’s minister of foreign affairs, his mother was an English noblewoman, and Roffredo himself was the godson of Franz Liszt. He studied with Sgambati, he knew Brahms, and his opera Island of the Sun was staged at the Rome Opera with Serafin conducting. His music was known to some degree in Europe outside of Italy, but with few exceptions he was ignored in his native country. This was largely because aside from two operas he focused on chamber music and shorter orchestral pieces.

I had no idea what to expect when putting this disc on. What I heard grabbed my full attention immediately, and didn’t let go for its almost 80 minutes. You hear influences of Liszt and Wagner in particular, but also to a lesser degree Chopin and even Debussy. But if from that you infer a pastiche with no real personality of its own, you would be wrong. This is music that, while being clear about the tradition of which it is a part nonetheless has the stamp of authentic individuality.

This disc presents a set of pieces, all labeled as opus 9, consisting of a “Ballata,” four impromptus, and a brilliant Toccata. The group was composed in 1899. The “Ballata” is perhaps the most dramatic piece on the disc, filled with touches of Wagnerian chromaticism. It is a somewhat dark piece, and one wonders if there is some story or dramatic incident that inspired it. But heard on its own with no literary of biographical context, it is a gripping little mini-tone poem. The four impromptus are more melodic, a bit lighter in their mood, recalling Liszt as well as Chopin. The annotator, Roberto Prosseda, rightly points to Schumann’s Toccata as a reference point for Caetani’s Toccata, but the Italian’s is a bit less dense and perhaps refers more directly to the Baroque origins of the form. The A? Sonata was composed in 1893, when the composer was 22, and is a surprisingly mature work for a composer of that age. It is cyclic in form, with melodic material coming back in each of its three movements.

What is it that makes Caetani’s music stand out and merit rediscovery? First, there is genuine melodic inspiration, material that impresses on the mind’s ear and stays there. Secondly, there is unpredictability. This is music that surprises constantly as it moves forward, particularly in its veering from darkness to light, from gloom to optimism and even outright joy. The transitions of mood come quickly, but are always managed convincingly. There is an architecture, a logic, to the flow of each work even with sharp swings of color and mood. The balance between drama and poetry, between turbulence and contemplation, is perfectly judged, and the result seems a mastery of the concept of tension and release. This is, in a word, piano music with a real face, and it is music that I am thrilled to discover.

Alessandra Ammara seems to love it too. These are not readings, but real performances with conviction and commitment. The recorded sound is a bit clattery at climaxes, but aside from that the perspective is natural and appropriately distanced. Informative program notes complete the picture. An absolute winner, and in fact a surprise candidate for my year-end Want List.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

Impromptus (4) for piano, Op. 9 by Roffredo Caetani
Performer:  Alessandra Ammara (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1899 
Venue:  Tau Recording Studio, Palazzo Pennisi di 
Length: 18 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Ballad for piano in F sharp minor, Op. 9 by Roffredo Caetani
Performer:  Alessandra Ammara (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1899 
Venue:  Tau Recording Studio, Palazzo Pennisi di 
Length: 6 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Toccata for piano in D major, Op. 9 by Roffredo Caetani
Performer:  Alessandra Ammara (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1899 
Venue:  Tau Recording Studio, Palazzo Pennisi di 
Length: 6 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op. 3 by Roffredo Caetani
Performer:  Alessandra Ammara (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1893 
Venue:  Tau Recording Studio, Palazzo Pennisi di 
Length: 46 Minutes 36 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Exquisite Program and Performance April 4, 2017 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "Fans of solo piano music are sure to enjoy this superb recording from Brilliant Classics, featuring four compositions from 20th century Italian composer Roffredo Caetani. Soloist Alessandra Ammara delivers a luxurious performance of these high quality works (Ballade, Impromptus, Toccata, and Sonata), lasting almost 80 minutes. As you might expect from any worthwhile piano composition, we get a broad kaleidoscope of tempos and dynamics, ranging from strongly assertive to delicate, intricately nuanced introspection- almost impressionistic in character. I had previously never encountered anything from this composer, so listening to this disk was like entering into unknown territory, which I found to be most hospitable and worthwhile. In short, this is a very fine offering from Brilliant Classics, one that I heartily recommend." Report Abuse
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