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Piano Rarities: Luigi Dallapiccola

Dallapiccola / Massa / Brso / Hirsch
Release Date: 05/25/2010 
Label:  Capriccio Records   Catalog #: 5045   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Luigi Dallapiccola
Performer:  Pietro Massa
Conductor:  Peter Hirsch
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DALLAPICCOLA Sonatina canonica. 1 3 Episodi dal Balletto “Marsia 1”. Quaderno musicale di Annalibera. 1 Piccolo Concerto. 1, 2 2 Orchestral Pieces 2 1,2 Pietro Massa (pn); 2 Peter Hirsch, cond; 2 Read more class="ARIAL12">Berlin RSO CAPRICCIO 5045 (74:30)

Luigi Dallapiccola composed few works for solo piano; while Irene Comisso concedes in her booklet notes for this release that they “are often regarded as somewhat inferior to his vocal repertoire,” she immediately adds “but this does not correspond with the importance these works have in the creative development of the composer.” Arguing that “the compositions for piano … generally serve as a kind of preparation for the vocal compositions,” she points out that fully two-thirds of Dallapiccola’s works include the piano, and that the solo piano works, all composed between 1935 and 1952, constituted a key part of “a creative period during which the composer’s distinctive musical language was formed.”

The early Piccolo Concerto , dating from 1939–41, was dedicated by the composer to Muriel Couvreux, the seven-year-old daughter of Parisian friends. Cast in six short movements that form two sets of triplets, it is largely diatonic (a heavily disguised 12-tone row appears in the fifth movement, “Notturno”) and is written in the beautifully gossamer, delicate style of the fourth movement of the Partita for Orchestra that I reviewed in Fanfare 33:6. It makes extensive use of pentatonic and modal scales; the orchestra is used sparingly, with much emphasis given to solos for violin, cello, and the four chief woodwind instruments. The opening “Pastorale” is slow and tranquil, with legato eighth notes flowing at a measured pace. Functioning as the scherzo, the following “Girotondo” features angular jagged lines with rapid runs, meter shifts, and numerous percussion effects. The “Ripresa” restores calm with leisurely, limpid movement. A cadenza for solo piano has a declamatory opening that quickly gives way to quieter material, with the two moods alternating back and forth. Ghostly effects, vaguely reminiscent of the first Nachtmusik movement of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, open the “Notturno,” but the following use of a descending chromatic scale and its concomitant harmonization bring Debussy to mind instead. The Finale closes the work with a stately dance of solemn joy.

The Sonatina Canonica on Capricci by Niccolò Paganini (to give its full title in English), dating from 1942–43, was the first work in which Dallapiccola employed the contrapuntal techniques of the Second Viennese School, whose compositions he had recently studied intensively, such as the “crab canon” ( canon cancrizans ). Cast in four movements, its mood is predominantly light and simple. The Allegretto comodo begins with fragmentary phrases in a slow opening, and then segues into the main section, where a quasi-Bachian series of rapid runs alternates with an almost childlike dance in three-quarter meter. The ensuing Largo sounds deceptively fast, its dance rhythms tinged with a slight Spanish inflection. A subdued Andante sostenuto follows, and the work closes with a merry, almost droll Alla marcia; moderato.

The Tre Episodi from 1949–50 are derived from Dallapiccola’s orchestral ballet score of 1942–43; the booklet notes are unclear as to whether the composer simply reduced excerpts for piano or composed the pieces afresh from the same thematic material. The episodes are out of sequence from the original dramatic action. The first, from the ballet’s central episode, depicts the contest between the faun Marsia and the god Apollon; once again the presence of Debussy is felt in its running, rippling scales that alternate with ostinato fragments, indicating the faun’s increasingly frustrated efforts. The second, from the opening of the ballet, portrays Marsia’s discovery of the flute and resulting ecstatic dance with a succession of agitated, rippling runs. The third, from the finale, delineates Marsia’s death and immortalization by Apollon; aside from one brief stormy passage early on, it consists of soft, fragmentary, recurring thematic motifs.

The Quaderno musicale of 1952, in homage to Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notebook , was dedicated to Dallapiccola’s 11-year-old daughter Annalibera, and is divided into 11 sections. About 18 minutes in length, it is the only solo piano work on this disc written in a strictly dodecaphonic style. Heavily influenced by Webern and Berg, it is highly cerebral and dry, showing none of the appealing Italianate lyricism that permeates most of Dallapiccola’s other compositions. Except for two short interludes titled “Accenti” and “Ritmi,” composed of sharply attacked chords, and the crashing, ominous clusters of the “Ombre” (Shadow) movement, the music does not rise above a mezzo piano in volume.

The booklet curiously provides no notes whatsoever about the Due Pezzi . Composed in 1948, these too are dodecaphonic works, albeit this time more akin to Schoenberg. As with much of Dallapiccola’s orchestral music, the “Sarabanda” is transparently scored for chamber-size forces only; it moves uneasily, even apprehensively, through its dance rhythms. The following “Fanfara e Fuga” brings the full orchestra to bear, employing insistent, jagged triplet motifs and shifting meter to considerable dramatic effect. The orchestral playing is top-notch.

Recorded in excellent sound, these are fine, probing performances on a par with those of Mariaclara Monetti praised by Peter Burwasser in Fanfare 22:4, preferable to the more superficial traversals by Roberto Prosseda on Naxos (who makes some pieces almost sound like salon music), and vastly superior to the brittle, clanging renditions by Raffaele Mani on the Meta label, which offers the only alternative at present for the Piccolo Concerto . Monetti performs the attractive Ricercare (on the Name of Luigi Dallapiccola) by Mario Castelnouvo-Tedesco instead of the Piccolo Concerto on her solo piano disc, so allow your preference for the filler item to dictate which disc you prefer to acquire if this repertoire attracts you. The Due Pezzi is also available in a superb performance by Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos, a 2005 Want List selection for Burwasser.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

Piccolo Concerto Per Muriel Corvreux for piano & chamber orchestra by Luigi Dallapiccola
Performer:  Pietro Massa (Piano)
Conductor:  Peter Hirsch
Period: Modern 
Venue:  RBB Sendesaal Berlin 
Length: 2 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Sonatina Canonica su Capricci di Nicolo Paganini by Luigi Dallapiccola
Performer:  Pietro Massa (Piano)
Written: 1943 
Venue:  Studio Gärtnerstraße 
Length: 11 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Episodes (3) from "Marsia" by Luigi Dallapiccola
Performer:  Pietro Massa (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; Italy 
Venue:  Studio Gärtnerstraße 
Length: 13 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Quaderno musicale di Annalibera: Simbolo by Luigi Dallapiccola
Performer:  Pietro Massa (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; Italy 
Venue:  Studio Gärtnerstraße 
Length: 15 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Pieces (2) for Orchestra by Luigi Dallapiccola
Performer:  Pietro Massa (Piano)
Conductor:  Peter Hirsch
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; Italy 
Venue:  RBB Sendesaal Berlin 
Length: 10 Minutes 21 Secs. 

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