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Giuseppe Martucci
The Piano Music, Volume 2.
Capriccio and Serenata, Op. 57. Fantasia, Op. 51. Two Nocturnes, Op. 70. Capriccio and Toccata, Op. 77. Six Pieces, Op. 44.

Francesco Caramiello (piano).
ASV CDDCA1092 [DDD] {78'18]

Francesco Caramiello's advocacy of the piano music of Martucci is evident from his enthusiastic and scholarly notes to this release. This is his second volume of solo works (Volume One was on CDDCA897), in addition to which he has put down the First Piano Concerto on CDDCA690 and the Second on CDDCA691.

Martucci made a conscious and determined effort to absorb Austro-Germanic influences in his music: he was a pupil of Beniamino Cesi (a pupil of Thalberg) and audible influences are, in particular, Liszt, Schumann and Mendelssohn.

Caramiello has all the requisite technical resource for this repertoire. He brings out the Lisztian sonorities and figurations in the Capriccio and Serenata, Op. 57, and seems to relish the deeply-rooted sonorities of the extended (12 minutes) Fantasia, Op. 51. He is generous with expression in the Two Nocturnes, Op. 70. It is only in the monochrome sonorities of the Capriccio from Op. 77 that he seems to fall short.

The Six Pieces, Op. 44 (1879-81) see both Martucci and Caramiello at their best. Liszt and Mendelssohn meet in the flighty second piece, 'Pezzo fantastico', with Liszt coming to the fore in the final 'Tarantella' (although it is much less manic than some of Liszt's efforts in this field). No. 3 is interesting from the viewpoint of its title, 'Pezzo orientale'. Rather than presenting simple pastiche, Martucci takes the Oriental colouring into his style to impressive effect.

Caramiello is both musical and capable of truly virtuoso feats, needing perhaps only that extra bit of force of personality to do full justice. The piano sound, on the thin side, lets him down a little.


Colin Clarke



Christopher Howell adds:-

The most remarkable music here is the latest, the Capriccio and Toccata op.77. Martucci shows in the first an imaginative waywardness which harks back to the spirit of Scarlatti or even Frescobaldi, yet couched in warmly romantic harmonies and scintillating post-Lisztian piano writing. The Toccata, instead of the motoric perpetuum mobile we might have expected, is even more capricious than the Capriccio itself. We are fortunate that Caramiello shows such a sure sense of where the music is heading.

The Capriccio from the op.57 pieces and the Fantasia exploit the same vein with almost as much success (the themes themselves seem more memorable in the op.77 pair) but it has to be said that when Martucci gets in a rut he sticks hard and fast. For six-and-a-half long minutes the second Nocturne proceeds without any variation in either its rhythmic movement or its accompanimental figure; the Serenata and the Capriccio from op.44 suffer slightly less from the same defect because the former is more interesting harmonically and the latter has verve (and both are shorter), but one day, just for the hell of it, I'm going to count the number of times Martucci repeats his grotty little phrase in all the 10' 39" of Colore orientale.

A very uneven composer, then, but the gold is definitely worth seeking out. Caramiello is warm-toned and clean-fingered. With an equally warm recording the piano sound is a pleasure in itself. A few doubts come with the first Nocturne (the famous one). The various melodic strands in the texture are not characterised by different tone qualities so when Caramiello wants to bring out an inner line he can only play it louder, occasionally producing hard tone. And the accompaniment sometimes gets in the way of the melody. But I don't want to make too much of this. It's no use saying that his versions of the op.77 pieces lack the diablerie of Horowitz, the impish humour of Cherkassky or the aristocratic grace of Rubinstein when these masters never played them. Fringe repertoire can finish in hands that do it more harm than good and that is certainly not the case here. All the same, it would be nice to hear what, say, Pletnev could do with op.77.

Caramiello also provides detailed and enthusiastic notes which appear in English, French and German. So nothing stands seriously in the way of a strong recommendation to all who wish to penetrate beyond the big names of romantic pianism.

Christopher Howell

Reviews from previous months

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