This album follows Muti's very impressive 1997 recording of Nino Rota's film
music with the same orchestra on the Sony label. It eclipses in every way
its rival 1998 Palumbo/Boni Chandos recording.
The Piano Concerto in C (1959-60) was dedicated to Arturo Benedetti
Michelangeli and is a glittering kaleidoscopic showpiece that reminds one
of Rota's music for Fellini's films. There is a certain Poulenc-like insouciance
as well as the Stravinsky wit of Pulcinella and Petrushka. In fact I was
haunted by saucy, cheeky, frentic images of the commedia dell'arte
while listening to this music. This element of farce carries over into the
central Arietta con variazioni (Andantino cantabile) that begins with the
cor anglais, oboe and clarinet taking turns to swank across the sound stage
before the piano enters to add its own disadainful note. Rachmaninov-like
flourishes and scurryings push the music on its way and attempts at tenderness
and romance are smartly ridiculed. The final Allegro introduces a more serious
and powerful note amongst all the carnival's frenetic shouting; and its
picaresque cadenza, is played with clean precision and dexterity and a wit
mixed with beguiling limpid beauty by Tomassi.
The Piano Concerto in E "Piccolo mondo antico" was composed in 1978
and was the Milan-based composer's last work. It concedes nothing to the
ghastly avante garde fashions of the day that so repulsed the ordinary music
lover. Rather it looks back to the
Late Romantics with the imposing 14-minute opening movement very much in
the style of Rachmaninov with all his passion and melodic melancholy. (There
is a pinch of Mendelsohn evident too.) In parts I was reminded of Rota's
music for the film, The Glass Mountain. The writing for the
piano is (as in the C major concerto) refined and charming. The cadenza here
too is striking, as affecting as it is virtuosic. Beginning rather mournfully
in something of the sound world of Schumann , the Andante develops a passion
and intensity that reminded me of Rota's music for Il Gattopardo.
The final Allegro is vivacious and energetic with a fine red-blooded peroration
at its climax.
An excellent recording with documentation that includes an interesting transcript
of an interview with Muti about the works. This is let down by an example
of how not to write a programme note from Andria Zaccaria, it's pompous and
full of self-importance and no substance and more importantly, has very little
about the actual works.