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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    




Alfredo CASELLA (1883-1947)
L'Opera per PianoForte (Piano Works)

Pavane, Opus 1 (1902)
Variations sur une Chaconne, Opus 3 (1903)
Toccata, Opus 6 (1904)
Sarabande, Opus 10 (1908)
Notturnino (1909)
Berceuse Triste, Opus 15 (1910)
À la manière de…, Opus 17 (1911-14)
Nove pezzi, Opus 24 (1914)
Sonatina, Opus 28 (1916)
A notte alta, Opus 30 (1917)
Deux Contrastes, Opus 31 (1916-18)
Inezie, Opus 32 (1918)
Cocktail's Dance (1918)
Undici pezzi infantili, Opus 35 (1920)
Due Canzoni popolari Italiane, Opus 47 (1928)
Due Ricercari sul nome B-A-C-H, Opus 52 (1932)
Sinfonia, Arioso e Toccata, Opus 59 (1936)
Ricercare sul nome Guido Gatti (1942)
Studio sulle terze maggiori (1942)
Sei Studi, Opus 70 (1943-44)
Lya de Barberiis (piano)
Recorded at Cetra Art Studios, Rome, Italy, 20th September 1979.
WARNER FONIT 0927 47043-2 [62.03+67.34+55.38]



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Alfredo Casella belongs to the generation (style?) of Italian composers of mainly non-operatic music that, along with Malipiero, represents a bridge between the late-romantic inspirations of Respighi and Martucci, and the modernism/post-modernism of Nono, Berio, Maderna and Dallapiccola. This three disc set, recorded in 1979, is a superb testament to his pianistic imagination. It may seem blasé to equate this music with that of Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Mompou perhaps (in his more animated moments), but the key words here are neo-classical and impressionistic, filtered through a very clear compositional process. The works are presented in chronological order but could have been shuffled randomly and worked equally well, such is the unity of spirit, character and utterance of this music.

The first disc starts out with a series of very engaging pieces, from the earliest years of the 20th century, which do full justice to their appellations, both in comparison to, say, Ravel, and even J.S. Bach, if one considers their original provenance. Musical tributes to (pastiches of?) Wagner, Brahms and Richard Strauss follow, in addition to the aforementioned French axis, in À la manière de…

The second disc provides some of the most elusive but ultimately gratifying music here, with the Sonatina and Nove Pezzi to the fore. The latter comes across like the creation of an Italian Bartók, with words like "dirge" and "rustic" prevalent in the subtitles of a very evocative creation. The salon-like Cocktail's Dance closes the CD on a lighter note.

The eleven children's pieces (Undici Pezzi…), which begin disc three, are wonderfully vigorous; again neo-classical inspirations are not far away but there is also a memorable tunefulness apparent culminating in a Galop final. Folk/popular influences inform other tracks on this part of the set and even the wartime late pieces reveal a joie de vivre not always apparent in music of this vintage.

Through the efforts of ASV, Naxos and now with Fonit reissues, a whole generation of "lost" Italian composers is gaining a wider audience. There is infinitely more to that cultural heritage than Puccini and Verdi, and the works of composers like Casella and Malipiero are at last, thankfully, gaining wider recognition. This is a very desirable set of what ought to be mainstream 20th century piano repertoire; let's hope that it will be taken up by a vanguard figure (Hamelin? Hough?). All in all, anyone even slightly enamoured with piano music would find much here to enrich their quest.


Neil Horner



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