Always eager to discover virtually unknown, forgotten composers, especially with regard to chamber works they may have written, I find the German CPO label a consistently reliable supply source. Here the company seems to have venturedRead more a bit far afield from its usual continental European hunting grounds, for Constantino Gaito (1878–1945) was Argentinian.
Born in Buenos Aires to an Italian father who had studied violin under Sivori (Paganini’s only pupil), Gaito won a two-year scholarship prior to the turn of the century to study in Milan and Naples, training there as a composer, pianist, and conductor. In 1900, he returned to his hometown, where he remained for the rest of his life, making significant contributions to Argentina’s classical music scene. Among his work list are 10 operas, an oratorio, three ballets, four symphonic poems, five overtures, three suites, numerous songs and pieces for piano, and a number of chamber works.
While Gaito may not be a household name among classical music audiences, neither is he quite the anonymous obscurity CPO sometimes manages to dig up. Recordings of the composer’s works aren’t exactly plentiful, but they do exist, including an ASV recording of the Cello Sonata heard on this disc that was reviewed as long ago as 1999 in back-to-back entries in the same issue, 23:2, by two of Fanfare’s critics, Michael Jameson and Martin Anderson. Jameson held the Sonata to be an unqualified masterpiece and expressed surprise that it never became a regular repertoire work. Anderson was a bit more circumspect, allowing that it was an expansive, ambitious piece with real romantic sweep, but of not particularly distinguished material. Both critics concurred in the opinion, however, that Gaito’s Sonata was indebted to Brahms and Rachmaninoff.
The above-cited recording, by the way, is still available at Amazon in a transfer to ASV’s Quicksilva label. But Jameson was prescient when he wrote that Eduardo Vassallo’s pioneering recording might well lead other cellists to seek out Gaito’s Sonata, for in addition to Stefan Bracher on this new CPO release, ArkivMusic lists a recording by Zoe Knighton on the Move label. Moreover, there are recordings of Gaito’s String Quartet No. 2 by the Abysse String Quartet on Xxi, and of a piano piece, Gato Correntino, mixed in among a program of Argentine piano music, performed by Mirian Conti on Albany. All considered then, while artists and record companies aren’t stampeding to be first on disc with works from Gaito’s fairly extensive catalog, the composer can’t be regarded as a total nonentity.
The Piano Quintet and the Piano Trio, composed within two months of each other in 1917, predate the Cello Sonata by one year. Clearly, the Quintet and Trio are of a romantic persuasion, the Trio perhaps reaching slightly further back in time than the Quintet to suggest Anderson’s and Jameson’s noted Brahms influence. It’s really quite a beautiful piece, harmonically lush, melodically effusive, and emotionally impassioned. While pianist Agustina Herrera’s program note postulates a basis in the tango for the opening theme of the Trio’s first movement, frankly, I don’t hear it, and I think it’s a bit of a stretch on her part trying to promote a nationalist element in the piece where none exists. This is music with strong 19th-century European roots, and as indicated, it’s gloriously beautiful.
The Quintet, in contrast, is somewhat more difficult to pin down as to its DNA. If I didn’t know the composer and was asked to guess, I’d probably make a fool of myself by saying that it sounds like a work written by someone with a French name. Herrera again notes an Argentinian folk motif, citing the superimposition of a 3/4 and 6/8 rhythmic pattern as a link to the malambo. Be that as it may, the stronger impression this music makes on my ear is one of French character; I hear in it snippets of Saint-Saëns, Chausson, Fauré, and occasionally a prefiguring of Debussy. Whatever its influences, Gaito’s Quintet is cast in a different mold than his Brahmsian trio of a month later.
As for the Cello Sonata, which, counting this CPO release, now has three recordings, I think I’m more inclined to agree with Anderson than Jameson. It doesn’t strike me as a masterpiece, unqualified or otherwise. For one thing, each of its three movements is relatively short, and while the outer movements work up a good head of steam, the coherent musical arguments heard in the Quintet and Trio seem lacking in the Sonata. For another thing, too much contrasting material is introduced in too short a time span for it to be articulated and developed convincingly.In the end, attractive as the piece is on its surface, it feels a foundationally weaker work than its companions. That’s my opinion, anyway, for what it’s worth.
The Quintet and Trio don’t quite rise to the level of masterpieces either. Though they’re very appealing, as is the Cello Sonata, they’re also derivative, reflecting the variety of influences Gaito must have come under during his studies abroad. I’ve not heard the other two versions of the Cello Sonata, but it’s hard for me to imagine it being played any more persuasively than it is here by Stefan Bracher and Agustina Herrera. Members of the Sarastro Quartet, an ensemble I’ve encountered before in highly recommended performances of string quartets by Felix Weingartner (see Fanfare 35:5), give deeply committed readings of Gaito’s Quintet and Trio. While I find no other current listings for either, CPO, whether out of modesty or caution, does not cite them as world premiere recordings. The booklet’s credits do state, however, that Agustina Herrera, who is Gaito’s great-granddaughter, personally edited the manuscript of the Trio, which led to its first printed edition in 2009; so it seems safe to assume that the Trio, at least in Herrera’s corrected version, has not been previously recorded.
Easily recommended for the listening pleasure of all, and not just to those with an interest in the offshoots of mainstream Romantic era chamber music.
Gorgeous Gaito - Premiere RecordingsSeptember 24, 2012By Sour Persimmons See All My Reviews"This disc contains the premiere recording of Constantino Gaito's Piano Trio op. 25 and Quintet op. 24, and also includes the Cello Sonata op. 26 (which has been recorded previously, although I am unable to comment on that version). I had never heard of Gaito before stumbling upon this release on Naxos's online music library, but after one hearing I was hooked and had to get the CD. These three rarely-heard works are loaded with gorgeous music, and each is beautifully played and superbly rendered here in glowing sound. The Trio and Quintet in particular are filled with lush harmonies, beautiful melodies, and sparkling ensemble work from the Sarastro Quartett and pianist Agustina Herrera. This disc comes very highly recommended to chamber music lovers and anyone looking to rediscover forgotten but first-rate music."Report Abuse